Himansu Shekhar Rout

Bada Danda (The Grand Road) in the pilgrimage town of Puri is a symbol of faith for all devotees of Lord Jagannath. However, another parallel road similar to the Grand Road named ‘Sridanda’(though not formally announced) is reportedly being constructed by the district administration with the claim that once completed, the road will reduce crowding at a stretch from the Jagannath Ballab to the Srimandir. 

However, locals have raised objections to the road and wondered if this road will only meant for the VIP movement. A volley of questions has cropped over the project. What is the need for Sridanda when the holy town has a sprawling road like Bada Danda? Is the road only meant to serve the interests of VIPs? Is the faith of devotees being sidelined on the pretext of reducing crowd by this road? 

As per reports, the road construction of this new road as an alternative walkway from Jagannath Ballabh Parking to Dolabedi corner is being carried out at a fast pace, ahead of the inauguration ceremony of Srimandir Parikarma Prakalp on January 17, 2024. 

The Puri administration says that the Bada Danda remains crowded due to the movement of tourists and devotees in large numbers, leading to serious traffic problems. Hence, there was a need for an alternative route to the temple. The people coming from the Brahamagiri and Bhubaneswar will no longer have to pass through the town. They will use the bypass road via Srisetu near Mangala Ghat and park their vehicles at the Jagannath Ballabh parking lot. From there, they will come on the 'Sridanda' to the Srimandir. 

Road is meant for VIPs, alleges Jagannath Sena

Objecting to the road project, Priyadarshan Patnaik, convenor of Sri Jagannath Sena, asked, “Why there is a need for a road while we have the Bada Danda. If you have to make Sridanda, why there was a need to evict scores of traders alongside the road? We know from reliable sources that the Sridanda was made for VIPs.”

Admin claims it will reduce traffic

Pradip Kumar Sahu, Puri ADM, however, argued, "Devotees will not only use this road but also use the Bada Danda. Keeping the traffic problem in view, this road is being laid. All have seen severe traffic snarls at Malatipatapur. The volume of traffic will reduce on the way to Srimandir.”

It was alleged that the road was being laid through Pramod Udyan which was full of Tulasi trees and other herbal trees. Besides, the steps of Dolabedi were damaged due to the road construction.

Fakir Panda, president of Bimanbadu Niyaog, said that the new road project should be carried out in such a way that it does not impede some rituals. 

OBCC says rules being followed for road construction  

Prabhat Panigrahy, project officer of the construction agency OBCC, said that the work is being carried out as per rule and the grand road has been widened.    

Out of the total land requirement for 750-metre long road with 40-ft width, it requires 68 percent of the land of the temple administration and 32 percent of private land.  Sources said 39 plots in Chudangsahi, 9 plots in Dandimala Sahi will be acquired for the project. 

Land acquisition & demand for fair price

As many as 84 families have agreed to spare their land for Lord Jagannath but warned that they have demanded a right price for their land. Mrutyunjay Pattnaik, a resident of Chudangsahi, said that a decimal of land is sold for Rs 80 lakh, but it is not clear how much will be paid to the land owner, even as houses are being demolished.  
However, it remains to be seen how far the Sridanda will serve the purpose.

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