Puri draws fewer tourists on new year day

Puri: Unlike past years, the buzz was missing on New Year day this time in this sea-side pilgrim town due to reduced inflow of tourists. Compared to previous years, the number of people visiting the sea side resort was much less, a tour operator said. Though pilgrims visit the famous Shri Jagannath temple here round the year, at least on five to six occasions including the New Year day when the tourists make the town brim with their number.

Holding the government, hoteliers, temple priests and local businessmen responsible for reduced turn out, an old timer said safety and security paramount to the tourists who set out on jaunt was gradually diminishing here. While greedy hoteliers charge exorbitant price or falsely claim that all the rooms have been booked in advance through internet booking, temple priests extract money from pilgrims in the name of the Lord.

Often reported death incidents while taking bath in the sea and lack of security on the beach appeared to have dissuaded the New Year revellers to the golden beach, said a tourist from Madhya Pradesh. Besides, unlike previous years, Railways had not run any special train to the town to enable the tourists reach here and back. It played a major role in curtailing the inflow of tourists this year, said S Jena, who runs a travel agency.

As a result majority of hoteliers in the town suffered loss as many rooms in the hotels remained vacant. "Many hotels in the town are now almost empty as the rooms are vacant there and the owners are regretting for turning away those who contacted them for reservation", said another tour operator. Besides, he said, flow of pilgrims from within the state also thinned down in view of alleged mismanagement by the district administration to provide them facility in the town. Another senior priest Jagannath Swain Mohapatra alleged that there was largescale mismanagement on the part of the district administration while controlling the crowd on the Grand Road on Sunday.

The district administration did not discuss the measures to be initiated to enable the pilgrims for smooth `darshan` of the deities and the devotees faced untold misery on long queues for hours together. "As the temple door needs to be shut from time to time for performing different rituals, the devotees are required to wait for their turn in the queue for hours. Keeping this in view, the administration should have made necessary arrangements", he said. Swain Mohapatra`s observations assumed significance as a devotee died while waiting in the long queue and two others were injured in separate incidents in the pilgrim town on the New Year day.