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Payment row: Daitapatis serve ultimatum on Odisha govt

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Dec 31:

Protesting the inordinate delay in the payment of their arrear dues, the Daitapatis (servitors) of Shri Jagannath Temple in Puri have warned the Odisha government and the Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) that they would not cooperate until the dues are released.

Pic: Biswaranjan Mishra
Pic: Biswaranjan Mishra

Daitapatis staged a walkout midway through the Nabakalebara Infrastructure Monitoring Committee meeting on Tuesday when government and SJTA officials failed to make a firm commitment in this regard.

The meeting, presided over by the chairman of the committee Maheswar Mohanty, had invited the servitors to discuss ways to organise the Nabakalebara festival scheduled next year smoothly. But the servitors insisted that the  issue of non-payment of their pending dues be resolved first before other issue are taken up.

Announcing that they would perform the Nabakalebara ritual of the Lords at their own cost as their forefathers had done in 1950, the irate servitors staged a walkout.

Though the committee chairman lent his support to the demand of the servitors, the latter told him to first settle the dispute relating to their payment as promised by the state government during the Rath Yatra this year.

As the meeting could not be held in the absence of the servitors, the committee decided to convene another meeting after eight days on January 6.

Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Energy secretary and officer on special duty (OSD) for the 2015 Nabakalebara festival Suresh Mohapatra said the meeting discussed the smooth conduct of the Nabakalebara festival the process for which would begin from March 29, 2015.

Referring to the arrear dues of the Daitapati servitors, he said the issue is now with the Law department, which will take a decision in this regard very soon.

However, reliable sources said that the government officials present at the meeting expressed their inability in the payment of arrear dues of the servitors.

Among others, Puri SP Ashish Singh, additional SP Banabihari Sahu, and administrators, Niti and Surakhya; permanent president of Daitapati Nijog Debaraj Mohapatra, president Ramakrushna Dasmohapatra, working president Ramachandra Dasmohapatra, secretary Premananda Dasmohapatra and assistant secretary Binayak Dasmohapatra were present.

It may be mentioned that the state government had debarred devotees from climbing atop the chariot for the darshan of the Lords during the Rath Yatra in June this year as per the advice of the Shankaracharya. The decision angered the Daitapatis who threatened to boycott rituals associated with the Rath Yatra. Caught betwen a rock and a hard place, Caught between a rock and a hard place, the government had assured the Daitapatis that they would be compensated for the ‘loss’ they had incurred due to the decision.

Though the government had promised the servitors to provide compensation to them soon after the Rath Yatra, it has not paid them their pending dues while six months have passed in the meantime.