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Puri servitors protest public hearing over Srimandir reforms

Puri: High drama was witnessed at the office of Sri Jagannath temple administration (SJTA) here today during a public hearing when a group of servitors staged dharna in front of the office, protesting such closed door public hearing.

Amid police protection, the hearing was conducted by the special committee which was formed by the State government following Supreme Court’s order to receive reformative suggestions and opinion on Srimandir affairs.

The panel which was headed by former SJTA chief administrator and senior IAS officer Suresh Mohapatra, police IG Soumendra Priyadarshi and temple managing Committee member Mahimohan Tripathy began hearing at around 11 am during which 126 members/ organisations registered to give their suggestions.

Half an hour after the servitors who staged protested in front of the temple office, entered the hearing venue and opposed the meeting.

They said the public hearing should be organised at a public place where people from various walks of life can take part and present their views. But the committee conducted the hearing in a closed door room like a grievance redressal programme, General Secretary of Jagannath Sevayat Sammilani, Kashinath Khuntia said.

“The servitors associations have decided to boycott the ‘farcical’ public hearing because we were assured that we will get a platform to exchange our views to reach a consensus. But, it is held like grievance redressal event,” Khuntia added.

On the other hand, the district administration deployed adequate police forces at the venue to avoid any untoward incident and ensure smooth conduct of the event.

After the first phase of hearing today, panel chief Suresh Moahapatra said that some people/ organisations have given their suggestions to bring reform in the 12th century shrine. A final report will be submitted to the department of Law by the end of August, Mohapatra added.

After the hearing, the committee will tour to different major spiritual centres like Vaishno Devi, Tirupati temple, Golden temple and Somnath temple to study the activities undertaken by the respective temple authorities and thereafter submit a report to the government.

Following Supreme Court directive, the State government had constituted the panel on June 14.

While hearing a petition pertaining to devotees’ harassment and other irregularities in the Sri Jagannath Temple, the apex court had asked the State to study activities and rituals of other famous shrines and recommend measures to streamline Srimandir affairs.

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