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Odisha’s presiding deities do without vegetables

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Jan 20:

A complete shutdown by vegetable vendors in Odisha’s pilgrim town Puri today had its effect on the menu of the Lords at the Shree Jagannath temple. The Lords had to remain cintent with fewer dishes today as kotha bhoga supakars (temple cooks) had to manage preparation of mahaprasad with whatever little vegetables they had in the temple’s storeroom.

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Vegetable vendors in the pilgrim town had downed their shutters in protest against the district administration’s decision to clear an additional 30 feet from the temple’s boundary wall on all sides for widening of roads for the Nabakalebar festival resulting in eviction of their shops. The vendors are protesting against the government’s move and are demanding rehabilitation. The district administration has decided to acquire properties on land belonging to mutts within the decided range on which these shops were located and where vendors were doing their business for years. The district administration has even disallowed the entry of vehicles carrying vegetables into the area.

“There are no vegetables. How are we going to prepare the prasad of the Lords? Since the temple administration is not bothered and is making no efforts to solve the matter, the Lord’s menu has certainly been affected,”, said Narasingh Mohanty, kotha bhoga supakar.

“The taste and menu of the Lords will certainly be affected in the absence of the desired vegetables. Devotees will face shortage of mahaprasad both in quantity. Under such circumstances, the temple administration should come out with some alternative arrangement to tide over the crisis,” said another servitor of the temple.

“They have decided to evict us from our businesses which we had been doing for generations without making any arrangements for our rehabilitation. They are not even allowing our vehicles into the area. How are we going to deliver our supplies to the temple for prasad preparation? We are just helpless under such circumstances,” said a vegetable wholesaler who has his shop in the area.

The administration, on the other hand, has said that efforts are on to provide alternative locations for the vegetable wholesalers as well as retailers.

On Monday, we have asked vegetable wholesalers to vacate the land where they used to keep their stock immediately. We have asked them to shift to the two acre land identified for the purpos. Arrangements have been made for relocating retail vegetable vendors of Laxmi Bazaar area. We have appealed to them to cooperate. But if they don’t, the administration will be forced to make arrangements through the civil supplies department,” said Madhusudan Das, ADM Puri.

Locals also faced problems as no vegetables were available in Puri today forcing them to manage with whatever residual stocks they had in their homes.