Rs 46 Lakh For A Gate! Scam In Development Of Atibadi Jagannath Das’ Birthplace?

Puri: The Tourism and Culture Department of Odisha government is sanctioning crores of rupees for the renovation, modernisation and maintenance of tourist locations and places of historical importance in the State. However, allegations of such funds being misutilised & embezzled have surfaced.

The State government had reportedly sanctioned Rs 46.14 lakh for the modernisation, renovation and conservation of Atibadi Jagannath Das Pitha on Puri-Brahmagiri route. However, the money was allegedly misappropriated by the contractors and concerned officials.

While the Atibadi Jagannath Das Pitha lacks basic facilities like toilets and restrooms for tourists, the sanctioned money is allegedly being used only for the construction of a concrete gate. This has not gone down well among the locals who demanded a probe into the matter. They questioned how the gate, which is being constructed some six kilometres away from the birth site of Atibadi Jagannath Das, will benefit the tourists.

“The amount which was sanctioned for the entire pitha has been siphoned by some who have constructed only a gate. A probe should be initiated and action should be taken against them,” alleged one Batakrusha Swain, a native of the area.

“A bhajan hall, satsang place, toilets and restrooms for the tourists would have been constructed with the money. What sort of gate is being constructed for Rs 47 Lakh?” questioned another local, Bhagban Das.
Another local, Birabar Das said, “What is the use of constructing the gate without developing the pitha. Will the tourist visit the area to see the gate?”

As per guidelines, the Culture department should directly look after the historical and places of great importance in Odisha. However, the charge was given to the contractors in 2017.

Likewise, it is alleged that there have been massive irregularities in the tender fixing process for renovation of Satalahadi Matha in Puri. The State government had finalised the tender for the preservation of the matha. However, it cancelled twice before it was finalised with certain changes in norms, which as alleged, is in clear violation of the OPWD rules. It is claimed that changes in the norms of tender-fixing were made only to prevent some contractors from participating in the tender process.

When asked about the allegations, Odisha Tourism & Culture Minister Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi said that an investigation will be initiated and appropriate action will be taken against whose who are found guilty.