Flood dampens Laxmi Puja mood

Kendrapara: The devastating flood that brought in its wake loads of human misery has cast its shadow on the weeklong Lakshmi puja celebration in Kendrapara district, where it holds a place of pride in the people`s socio-cultural life more than what Dussehra does.

The puja commenced yesterday, but the usual enthusiasm is missing. "Only urban people are closely involved in observing the puja. Unlike past years, the number of rural pandal hoppers has declined. In many areas, flood-hit people are yet to get back to their normal life. This will take away the charm of festivity," said Harilal Agarwal, a puja organiser.

Only last month flood devastated these parts of the state. As people were yet to come to terms with the severity of damage, the puja will be more ritualistic this year as the contributions from people have been low. "This time we are spending less on decorating the puja pandals," said Nrusingha Patri, another puja organiser.

"Every year, our family travels over 30 kilometres to visit pandals in Kendrapara. But this time we are forced to skip the visit. We are trying to rebuild the damaged houses" said Surendra Acharya of flood-hit Tikhiri village.

"Sixty-three Lakshmi Puja pandals have come up in the town where security measures have been beefed up with deployment of 16 platoons of armed police. Additional security measures will be taken up in pandals that have come up at sensitive areas", said Kendrapara SP Narasingha Bhoi.

Besides the armed police, seven DSP rank officers, 15 inspectors, 70 ASIs and 300 constables and home guards have been stationed at the district headquarters, he said.