In March this year, when President Ram Nath Kovind and his wife Savita Kovind visited the Puri Jagannath temple in Odisha, a few servitors allegedly showed disrespect to them. Three months later, the issue became the talk of the town Tuesday after it came to light that the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) had drawn ire of the Rashtrapati Bhavan over the alleged misconduct.
According to reports, when the President and the First Lady were at the temple on 18 March, the select servitors, the district collector, the superintendent of police and others accompanied them as per protocol.
Sources said three servitors allegedly breached the security protocol by brushing past the couple, much to the discomfort of the First Lady during the darshan.
While the Rashtrapati Bhavan had expressed displeasure over the incident in a communication to the temple administration after the visit, the matter was discussed at a recent meeting of the SJTA where members raised concern over such behaviour.
Puri District Collector Arvind Agarwal and the local SP had furnished a report on the incident described as “rude behavior” and “misconduct”.
Agarwal raised the matter at the temple managing committee meeting in March. However, it was neither made public, nor any action was taken.
Meanwhile, the SJTA is learnt to have ordered a probe into the alleged breach of security protocol and misconduct by the servitors.
Quoting SJTA Administrator Pradipta Mohapatra, a report in The New Indian Express said, “During discussion with servitors it was learnt that some uninvited servitors had come inside the temple that day and one among them had gone close to the President.”
According to the minutes of the SJTA meeting, the report said, “Many VVIPs are coming to the temple and they facing trouble during darshan of the trinity. While Khuntia Mekap servitors did not move from the corridor during the visit of the President, some servitors nudged him and his wife causing embarrassment.”
Many are however raising questions as to why the matter was not being raked up all these months later. They are also asking why no action had been taken till now if the matter was serious.
Locals at Puri said “some people” were trying to rake up one controversy after the other related to the temple with an eye on political gains, or to deflect public attention from other major issues concerning people at large.
The temple administration was recently under fire over the missing Ratna Bhandar (temple treasury) keys.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had taken serious note of alleged exploitation of devotees by ‘sevaks’ at the temple. It passed a slew of directions to prevent any such malpractices and mismanagement.
The apex court had directed the Odisha government to study how other important shrines in the country were managed and adopt the practices.