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Yes Bank Crisis: Odisha Govt Seeks Centre's Intervention to Release Lord Jagannath's Funds

File photo of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik (PTI)

File photo of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik (PTI)

Terming it as an issue of religious importance , Odisha Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari urged the Centre to give necessary instruction to the RBI to allow the release of Rs 545 crore.

Bhubaneswar: Under attack by opposition parties over deposits of Rs 545 crore of Lord Jagannath in capital-starved Yes Bank, the Odisha government on Sunday

sought the Centre's intervention for release of the funds in the interest of devotees.

Odisha's Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari urged the Centre to give necessary instruction to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the release of the amount deposited with the

crisis-hit lender.

In a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Pujari said various funds related to Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri are managed by a committee of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA).

"Out of these funds, an amount of Rs 545 crore has been deposited with Yes Bank, Puri in the form of TDRs," he said.

These deposits are maturing this month, the state minister said.

The RBI has capped withdrawals from Yes Bank at Rs 50,000 for the next one month and imposed strict limits on operations after the cash-starved lender faced "regular outflow of liquidity" following an effort to raise new capital failed.

"It is pertinent to mention here that SJTA is a statutory authority working under provisions of an Act of the state government. This is an issue of religious importance for devotees of Lord Jagannath.

"In this background, I request you to kindly issue necessary instruction to RBI to allow the release of deposits relating to SJTA in Yes Bank in the interest of millions of

devotees," Pujari said.

The move has come after opposition parties, including the BJP and the Congress, came down heavily on the state government over fixed deposits of Rs 545 crore of Lord Jagannath in the crisis-hit Yes Bank.

Slamming the state government, BJP's Odisha unit general secretary Prithviraj Harichandan alleged that depositing money in the cash-starved lender smacked of a conspiracy.

Quoting an official report of 2017, he claimed that it was decided to park the funds of Lord Jagannath in 25 banks and Yes Bank was not in the list that time. However, in July 2019, Yes Bank was included in the list and the funds were deposited, Harichandan claimed, adding, that "it smells of a conspiracy to embezzle the temple funds."

Demanding a 'white paper' on the issue, he said there should be an impartial probe into the whole episode and those responsible must be punished.

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik asked who gave the rights to the authorities concerned to deposit the funds in the Yes Bank while there are strict guidelines to keep the temple money in the nationalised banks.

Patnaik further alleged that the motive behind keeping the funds in the private bank was to earn a commission. State Finance Secretary Ashok Kumar Meena, however, maintained that as the fund belonging to Lord Jagannath was safe as per RBI.

"Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) has written to the RBI. We have also spoken to the central bank in this connection. The RBI has said that the money of all the depositors is safe," he added.