Mrunal Manmay Dash

In order to alleviate the plight of devotees, who wait on queues for hours in the open to avail darshan of Lord Jagannath, the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) installed an air conditioned tunnel near the Singhadwara. However, term it a lack of foresight or plain indifference, the electricity bill of the AC tunnel has reportedly put the admin in a fix. They are now finding it difficult to pay the bill.

AC shed of 84 metres long and 12 metres wide was dedicated to the devotees just three months back. It is equipped with air conditioning as well as fans and lights. However, the electricity bills for January and February have raised concerns. In two months, only AC hangars have been billed Rs 14,17,630.

The servitors and devotees have expressed concerns over the payment of the electricity bill. They feared if this is the electricity bill in two months, it is likely to cross crores of rupees in a year.

The servitors have appealed to waive off the bill. Meanwhile, the managing committee members have suggested a far-sighted approach and requested the SJTA to attach the AC barricades with a solar energy system.

“This is an example of lack of foresight. When we install an AC tunnel, it requires electricity. Not only the tunnel, the electricity bill is rising in Srimandir and Gundicha temple too. So there is only one way out. And that is solar energy. Otherwise the government should pay from its own coffers or ask Tata power to make it free,” said senior Servitor Vinayak Dasmohapatra.

Similarly, a Srimandir Managing Committee member, Madhav Mohapatra said, “Apart from the AC tunnel, the electricity bill will also be added for Parikrama marg, Srimandir, all the pilgrim centres, SJTA office too. And when added, the bill will be of a staggering amount. I think, the SJTA would require Rs 2 lakh per day to pay as electricity bill only.”

“This is not a small amount. We should make efforts to reduce the electricity consumption. Our goal should be to utilise the green energy more,” Mohapatra added.

“Solar system would have been a better option. But they have not done that. Now the electricity bill will be paid from the State exchequer, which is tax payers’ money. It is strange that the officials do not think before spending public money,” said a devotee.

Meanwhile, the Srimandir Development Administrator said the engineers of the electricity department will look into the bill. The state government will be informed and whatever decision will be taken after that.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the SJTA manages the expenses of the Srimandir from the donations it receives from the devotees. It prepares an annual budget every year and spends accordingly. But this electricity bill has reportedly shaken the budget of the SJTA this year.

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