Collecting Donations from Devotees



Puri: Servitors to Refrain from Collecting Donations from Devotees


JAGANNATHA PURI, ORISSA   — Jagannath Temple Administration Urges Servitors to Refrain from Collecting Donations from Devotees

The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) in Puri on Wednesday issued letters to all Nijogs (associations of servitors), asking them to refrain from collecting donations (dakshina) from devotees. The SJTA, acting on a recent directive of the Supreme Court, sought cooperation of servitors to sensitise pilgrims to donate directly to the shrine administration.

"We have sought the cooperation of all servitors to implement the Supreme Court's order," temple spokesperson Laxmidhar Pujapanda said. District Judge of Puri, Ambuja Mohan Das on Wednesday issued a notice, inviting suggestions from people as part of his probe into alleged mismanagement and exploitation of devotees by servitors at Jagannath temple.

The Supreme Court, hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on June 8 directed the Puri district judge to give a report on factual aspects of difficulties faced by visitors, exploitative practices (if any), deficiencies in the temple management (if any) and suggestions to improve the overall functioning of the temple, by June 30.

In the public notice, people have been asked to send their suggestions and statements by way of affidavit to the district judge by June 20. Puri District Collector Aravind Agarwal and Superintendent of Police (SP) Sarthak Sarangi have been asked to put the notice at their offices for dissemination of the information in public. The district information and public relations officer has also been asked to circulate the district judge's notice for the knowledge of the masses.

"We demand that the state government should immediately provide necessary logistics, including an office chamber, to the district judge for smooth conduct of his inquiry. The Supreme Court, in its directive, too clearly said that the collector or temple administrator may provide necessary funds, facilities and information, as may be necessary," said Debasis Das, convenor of Srikhetra Swabhiman Mancha, a socio-cultural organisation.

A large number of servitors earlier expressed their displeasure after the Supreme Court asked the temple administration to prevent the former from collecting dakshina from devotees. The Supreme Court's directive came after the PIL's petitioner, Mrinalini Padhi, alleged that the world famous Jagannath Temple often hogged headlines for a series of controversies, including misconduct of servitors and delay in conduct of daily rituals. Significantly, about two weeks ago, an IT professional from Thane and his wife were brutally assaulted by three servitors at Jagannath Temple when they refused to pay exorbitant dakshina demanded by the trio.

"We have decided to apprise the district judge about financial suffering of servitors. Many of our colleagues eke out their living by accepting dakshina from visitors. The Supreme Court's ban on acceptance of dakshina by us will push many families of servitors into deep penury. We will also plan to file a review petition in the Supreme Court, requesting revocation of its order," said Ramakrushna Dasmohapatra, President of Daitapati Nijog, a prominent association of servitors.