BARIPADA: Days after the Chhatisha Nijoga recommended re-opening of the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) on December 23, servitors of Haribaldevjew temple on Tuesday evening urged the state government and district administration to accelerate the process to reopen the shrine, also known as ‘Dwitiya Srikhetra’.
The temple has been closed for devotees since March due to the Covid-19 crisis. Lighting diyas in front of the temple, the servitors expressed their anguish that the government has failed to understand their plight as the community has been badly hit after the shutdown.
“We have assured that all safety protocol will be followed while allowing devotees but no plan has been chalked out by authorities to resume the temple operations. Our earnings have dried up and even locals are desperate to get a glimpse of the deities,” said servitor Kameshwar Tripathy, citing examples of reopening of pilgrimage sites in other states.
After Jagannath temple, Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar is slated to re-open. The Government has already said that Collectors have been authorized to take a call on re-opening of religious shrines.
Tripathy warned that servitors will take to the streets if no prompt action is taken to reopen temples in the district. While the pandemic wiped out livelihoods of many communities, servitors too were no exception as all places of worship shut down.
They had staged an agitation in front of the Haribaldevjew temple on September 7 demanding reopening of temples apart from economic assistance, issue of identity cards, pension and insurance facility for servitors’ community. A month later, servitors had rung bells and blown conch shells as a mark of protest and reiteration of their demands.
Meanwhile, the development committee of Haribaldevjew temple on the day started preliminary work for its redevelopment by demolishing a wall and peripheral units to free up space for beautification. Locals were pleased as they have been demanding the temple’s renovation and restoration for a while now.
Sub collector P Anvesha Reddy said four projects worth ` 5 crore will be implemented over an acre of land for the shrine’s beautification which includes development of the temple complex, an entrance plaza, an office to manage the shrine’s affairs, ‘Bhoga’ shops, a rest room for ‘sevayats’ and a godown for the ‘Rath’. The projects will be aided by the Special Problem Funds.