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Opposition Seeks Jatra Clarity


Saffron Veteran Bijoy Mahapatra has said the State Government will have to conduct Rath Jatra as it has no other option.

He said that however the State Government is not coming out openly to announce that Rath Jatra will be conducted, adding he sought a clarification from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on possibility of holding the Ratha Jatra of Lord Jagannth.
Mr.Mahapatra in a Media Meet on 11 June said the State Government must come out with clarity about conduct of Rath Jatra as it has no scope to halt Annual Festival of Trinity.
Mr.Mahapatra said the State Government should not keep people in darkness on Rath Jatra count for more time.
The issue of Lord’s annual Ratha Jatra was also raised in Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s virtual rally where BJP State President Samir Mohanty said that the BJP Government has accorded permission to go ahead with chariot construction amidst lockdown for  Ratha Jatra.
Mohanty described Shan as a devotee of Lord Jagannth while Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan narrated how the Prime Minister sanctioned Rs 50 crore for the Lord’s Nabakalebara festival.
Exactly two days later, BJP General Secretary Prithiwiraj Harichandan in a press conference asked the Odisha government to clear doubts over holding the annual Rath Yatra on June 23 at the earliest.
He said the state government’s silence has caused anxiety among the devotees and 4.5 crore people of Odisha.
“There is no clarity from the state government on holding the Rath Jatra while chariot construction works continued with all precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic following permission by the Centre,” Mr.Harichandan said.
He also criticised the state government for not holding the preparatory meetings for the mega festival. Leading to uncertainty over holding the festival.
In the meantime, the High Court on Tuesday disposed of a writ petition declining to interfere in the matter.
The state government has informed the court that it will take a decision considering the prevailing COVID-19 situation during the time of chariot festival.
The Department of Law in an affidavit to the HC has stated that though initially Puri district was placed in the green zone, now there has been a spike in coronavirus cases. Till May 1, there was only one coronavirus case in Puri, but later the number of infections in the city rose to 108.
Keeping the situation in mind, the State Government has included Puri among the 11 districts where weekend shutdown is being imposed, the law department said.
"Keeping in mind the deteriorating situation pertaining to the spread of COVID-19 virus in the state, the government is constantly monitoring the situation and any decision with regard to the holding of the Rath Jatra festival will be taken on the basis of the objective situation of the pandemic as on the relevant date and keeping in mind the interest of the public at large," the state government told the high court.
The BJP leader, on the other hand, demanded that the Rath Jatra be conducted in Puri.
Priests also demanded that the Rath Jatra should be held and the state government should make it clear well in time.
"More than 200 servitors have already undergone coronavirus tests. Therefore, the state government should give permission for holding the Rath Yatra," a servitor said.
Earlier, Gajapati Maharaja Divyasingha Deb as the chairperson of the Shree Jagannath Temple managing committee, had recommended the state government to hold the chariot festival without the presence of devotees in Puri.
The government should ensure that the devotees do not congregate in Puri on the Rath Yatra day, he had said.
Senior BJD Lawmaker Amar Prasad Satpathy, however, said, "The state government will take proper decision at the appropriate time. It will take the decision after consulting different stakeholders, including religious heads like Shankaracharya."
Meanwhile, after the first preparatory meeting on Rath Jatra with representatives of the temple managing committee, Shree Jagannath temple Administration (SJTA) Chief Administrator Krishan Kumar said specially designed masks will be procured for servitors to be engaged in various rituals of Lord Jagannath.
"Around 5,000 masks will be prepared in coordination with Bayonika or other SHGs and distributed to daitapati servitors and other servitors engaged inside the temple. The servitors will wear the masks while conducting rituals in the temple," Dr.Kumar said.
He also said that the Temple Administration will provide a financial assistance of Rs 5,000 to servitors whose livelihood has been affected due to closure of the temple since the lockdown.
Dr.Kumar said the construction of chariots is going on smoothly and the work is well ahead of time.


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