With the Rath Yatra barely a week away, a massive security blanket has been thrown around Puri. Apart from security forces standing guard to the pilgrim town, aerial and marine patrolling has been put in place.
A whopping 110 platoons of armed police are being deployed for the Rath Yatra which will kick off on July 10. Two companies of Rapid Action Force, 2,000 home guards and hundreds of officers from outside have been mobilised for what is considered as one of the most-thronged religious festivals.
Since the Rath Yatra day, Bahuda and Suna Besha are witnessed by lakhs of devotees from across the globe, the Puri administration has not only laid out a security plan for the Jagannath Temple as well as the Grand Road but also crowd control.
To keep an eye on possible terrorist attacks, anti-extremist measures have been chalked out. One unit of anti-terrorist unit will be deployed while there will be fixed morchas around the temple and the Grand Road.
Besides, for marine security, the support of Coast Guard has been sought and it will deploy a vessel for patrolling the sea while flying a chopper to keep an eye from air. To prevent drowning during bath, Puri Police have deployed 100 life guards - drawn from the force - along the beaches while another 300 volunteers from various voluntary organisations will be pressed into duty. For VIPs, special security measures and provisions for “darshan” have been undertaken.
As all roads lead to Puri during the nine-day festival, separate arrangement has been made for managing traffic and parking during Rath Yatra, Bahuda and Suna Besha.
The National Highway-203 will be turned one-way during these three events and only entry will be allowed. For exit, several points have been identified by the administration.
Devotees can leave the town through Astarang-Kakatpur Road, Gop-Chari Chhaka-Niali and Nimapara-Chari Chhaka-Uttara.
The Pipili Bypass will also be thrown open keeping in view the traffic flow and necessity. Those leaving towards Brahmagiri can take the state highway directly.
For vehicular parking, separate and dedicated lots have been identified inside the town. All heavy vehicles will be stopped at Talabana while light vehicles will be allowed inside only till 7 am during the Rath Yatra and parked at grounds of SCS College, Girls High School and Zilla School.
The police have made a separate arrangement for regulating traffic during the night when large number of devotees head towards Puri. Awareness measures are being undertaken to prevent any recurrence of last year’s incident when a woman died in a stampede while a couple was assaulted while trying access to the chariots.