Column: Make Puri The Pride of Odisha

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik recently laid the foundation for seven projects worth over Rs 500 crore in Puri as part of his government’s ambitious plan to turn the pilgrim town into a world-class heritage destination. The projects include the construction of a trumpet bridge, a huge meditation and pilgrim help centre, a commercial complex and a massive multi-storey parking facility.

Puri being the state’s biggest tourist attraction and its most famous pilgrimage destination fully deserves a package that will make it more attractive for visitors with improved infrastructure. The government has also been right in carrying out demolitions within a certain area around the 12th century Jagannath temple, the town’s most famous and iconic landmark and the focal point of attention of lakhs of devotees cutting across castes and sects.

The environs of the shrine have been too cluttered for the comfort of devotees over the years. Though few complaint about it for the fear of incurring the divine wrath there is no doubt that everyone will be happy with cleaner surroundings. At least the approach to the different entry points to the temple should be clean and sufficiently wide. This was not possible without demolishing structures which were even obstructing a good view of the temple from outside.

The government should be congratulated for having carried out this drive in a sensible and sensitive manner with due regard to the needs and sentiments of the people. While the drive was preceded by an appeal by the chief minister to the residents of Puri to help the government clean up and beautify the temple environs officials supervising the demolitions, too, ensuring that the job was done with the cooperation of the people to the extent possible.

The government also came out with a generous compensation package which, by and large, satisfied the people. No wonder the protests, partly politically motivated, petered out quickly and the drive continued uninterrupted. Now it is the responsibility of the government to execute the plan to turn Puri into a world-class heritage city faithfully and to the satisfaction of all.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has taken similar steps to give a facelift to the holy city of Varanasi which is part of his Lok Sabha constituency. People, who have visited the spiritual capital of Uttar Pradesh ( rather India) during the past one year, testify to the positive changes it has undergone since Modi was first elected to the Lower House from this prestigious constituency. The famous Kashi Vishvanath temple and its surroundings now look much cleaner with the approach path of the shrine becoming less narrow and cluttered.

Even the ghats of Banaras have undergone a new makeover but the spiritual essence of the city remains the same. The city of Shiva has embraced modernity without sacrificing any of the religious or cultural attributes that made it the favourite of saints, scholars and artists over the centuries. The soul of Varanasi remains unchanged. We are looking for the same kind of change in Puri which is one of the four famous ‘ dhams’ ( abodes or seats) of the Hindus but attracts the seekers of spirituality from all religions and from all corners of the world.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)