New Delhi: Three months after President Ram Nath Kovind and his wife Savita faced ‘harassment’ during their maiden trip to Jagannath Temple in Odisha, the Puri district administration has launched a probe in the matter.
According to a Times of India report, a group of servitors blocked the President’s path near the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine on March 18 and shoved the First Lady.
Rashtrapati Bhavan had on March 19 sent a strong note of protest against the servitors’ conduct to Puri collector Aravind Agarwal, following which a meeting was held by the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) the next day.
The minutes of the SJTA meeting, which came to light on Tuesday, revealed the incident.
On March 18, the temple was kept out of bounds for devotees from 6.35am to 8.40am to ensure smooth darshan for the dignitaries. A handful of servitors and government officers were allowed to accompany Kovind and his wife inside the temple, the report stated.
A local newspaper, Pragativadi, said that when the President went near Ratna Singhasana in the innermost chamber of Puri Jagannath temple, a Khuntia Mekap servitor allegedly did not make room for him. Besides, some servitors allegedly nudged Kovind and his wife while both were having darshan of the deities.
The temple administration has decided to serve show cause notices to three servitors in this regard.
“We can’t understand why the district administration failed to prevent the unpleasant situation. Until now, only common devotees were exploited by the servitors. Now it seems not even the President and his family were spared,” TOI quoted Congress leader Suresh Kumar Routray as saying.
The SJTA chief administrator, IAS officer Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra, admitted that the President and the First Lady were inconvenienced inside the temple but refused to comment further. “We discussed the matter with the temple managing committee a few days ago. It is being investigated,” he said.
Rajya Sabha MP and BJD spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb said the collector had started an investigation. “The temple administration is also probing the matter,” he added. Despite repeated attempts, collector Agarwal was unavailable for comment.
Close to three months after this incident, the Supreme Court had on June 8 taken strong note of the exploitative conduct of the temple’s servitors and directed the state government to take measures to prevent harassment of devotees.