Himansu Shekhar Rout

The Srimandir Parikrama project in Puri was inaugurated on Wednesday, but the rice and betel nuts collected from devotees across Odisha through the 'Arpan Rath' initiative could not reach Srimandir. The state government spent crores of rupees in rolling out Arpan Raths in villages to collect betel and rice from devotees, as well as for the publicity of the Srimandir Parikrama project. 

However, it was alleged that the collected rice and betel are lying unused at either panchayat offices or village temples. Devotees and people were told that the collected rice and betel would be sent to Srimandir. 

Devotees have expressed their displeasure over the collected rice not reaching Lord Jagannath while Puri Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb made it clear during an interview with OTV that the Arpan Rath programme has nothing to do with Srimandir.       

In the Kalyansinghpur panchayat of Rayagada district, rice and betel collected through an Arpan Rath have been kept at the panchayat office. Sarpanch Goutam Barli expressed displeasure over it and sought to know why the collected items have not been sent to Puri. 

“People were told lies while collecting rice and betel through the Arpan Rath. They were given the impression that the collected rice and betel will be sent to Srimandir,” he added.

Nearly 30 quintals of rice and 29 kg of betel nuts collected through Arpan Raths have been stocked in the Shiv temple at Bhatar Siuni in Nabarangpur block. Besides, cash worth Rs 1,07, 835 has been collected. BDO Sunil Khara said that the collected items will be sent to Puri soon. 

“The administration will give us schedules and accordingly the collected stuff will be sent to Puri,” the BDO added.  

Similar situations were witnessed at some temples in Khallikote and Polsara in Ganjam and Malkangiri.    
Debadash Khara, a devotee of Jagannath in Nabarangpur said, “They have played with the faith of devotees. We didn’t expect that they would stock the collected rice and betel nuts in villages. This is injustice to all devotees. Their sentiments have been hurt.” 

Opposition parties slammed the government over the issue. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Suryavanshi Suraj observed, “Devotees with a sense of dedication had donated rice and betel nuts to the deities. The collected stuff should not be misappropriated or used in feasts. This will hurt the feelings of Odia people.”

Also Read: Puri Shankaracharya skips Srimandir Parikrama project inauguration 

Veteran Congress leader, Sura Routray slammed the state govt and said, “Each panchayat was provided Rs 2 lakh to roll out Arpan Rath. The vehicles used for the purpose were broken. You went on begging all over Odisha in the name of Lord Jagannath.”

Ruling BJD leader and the mayor of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) Sulochana Das said, “We have kept the collected stuff safe in temples. We will hand over the items to the Srimandir temple administration.”