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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government’s refusal to audit Puri Srimandir’s Ratna Bhandar, the treasure trove of Lord Jagannath on Friday drew criticism from all quarters.

Answering queries by legislators Suresh Routray and Kusum Tete, State Law Minister Pratap Jena today informed, "We don't have any proposals to either open the Ratna Bhandar or audit it for now."

Offering the account of last cataloguing of the treasure trove in the Assembly, Jena said, "Ratna Bhandar was last opened in 14 July 1985. As per the record, 454 numbers of gold and other jewelleries were present in the Ratna Bhandar and the weight of precious gem stones accounted during the time was 1,28,380 grams."

"Similarly, the number of silver jewellery were found to be 236 with a total weight of 1,88,150 grams. There were 8 golden statues and 6 silver statues and utensils excluding the previously mentioned jewels those couldn't be measured for some unknown reasons,” added Jena.

However, senior Congress leader Suresh Routray wasn't satisfied with the reply of the Law Minister. Speaking to OTV, Routray said, "Millions of Jagannath devotees have the right to know about the details of jewellery stored in the Ratna Bhandar. The government should conduct a joint audit of the treasure in presence of two sitting High Court judges and other top officials."

Quoting seizure of hundreds of silver bricks from the Emar Mutt near the 12th century shrine a few years ago, Routray said, “If Emar had such amount of valuables, one can only imagine the treasure stored in the Ratna Bhandar.”

Routray further alleged that, "The bureaucrats will loot all the treasure inside if the details aren't made public soon."

Opposition BJP also came down heavily on Odisha government following the development. In a scathing remark on Jena's statement in Assembly, BJP MLA Bishnu Sethi said, "I knew that the government would not open Ratna Bhandar. Their corruption and loot will be exposed, if they ever conduct an audit of it."

Similarly, senior Daitapati servitor of Lord Jagannath, Binayak Das Mohapatra said, "When the Ratna Bhandar key fiasco happened last year, devotees pointed finger at the servitors. So we demand that the previous catalog of the treasure should be matched with the jewels present in the Ratna Bhandar.”

Notably, the Supreme Court of India in an interim order had earlier directed the State government to submit a detailed account of Srimandir's entire movable and immovable assets before 8 December 2019.

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