Pradeep Pattanayak

If the reply to RTI queries made by an activist is anything to go by, the Public Works department, Puri spent crores of rupees for just erecting temporary barricades. 

As per the RTI reply received by RTI activist Dilip Baral, a whooping Rs 1.60 crore was spent for erecting barricades on the grand road on the occasion of this New Year's Day.  

Surprisingly enough, in the year 2019-20 when the temple was out of bounds for devotees due to the outbreak of Covid 19, Rs 35.55 lakh was spent for putting up barricades. The next year, i.e. 2020-21, the amount spent on barricades came down to Rs 21 lakh. In 2022-23, it again went up to Rs 1.11 crore. And, this year’s expenditure has crossed the record of the last 24 years. 

RTI activist Baral has blamed the collusion between the administrative officials and contractors citing loot of government money. 

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“Prior to 2019-20, the money spent on temporary barricades used to be very low. But in the last three years, crores were spent. I suspect the involvement of contractors, officers of the R & B department, and other officials. In the coming days, a complaint will be filed with the Vigilance department. A proper investigation would reveal everything,” said Baral. 

Barricades are generally put up during festivals and on the occasion of New Year's Day. For this, bamboo poles and clothes are required. They are brought on rent. From the look of the present barricading and cloth roof, it would be difficult to accept that it cost Rs 1.60 crore. 

“The barricade means 200 to 300 bamboo poles and sheets of clothes. It is not the kind of roof that can check rain water. By erecting this, Rs 1.60 crore has been pocketed,” said Ramesh Prasad Singh, a devotee. 

Similarly, senior servitor Binayak Dasmohapatra said, “It seems a large amount of money is being misappropriated. So we submitted complaints to the Vigilance department and the district Collector, requesting a probe." 

When contacted, Puri district Collector Siddharth Shankar Swain said, “I will take action after holding discussions with our concerned officers.”

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