The government on Friday pulled down unsafe portions of Emar mutt in front of the Jagannath temple in Puri. The 700-year-old religious institution had hogged headlines after police discovered 522 silver ingots worth over Rs 90 crore on its premises last year.
Armed with an Orissa High Court order, the Puri administration razed some portions of the two-storied building amid tight security. The administration had been unsuccessfully trying to demolish Emar Mutt since 2006. But the process was earlier stopped after the mutt authorities got stay orders from court.
“This time the mutt’s chief (Mahant) Ramanuj Gopal Das cooperated with the district administration and allowed us to demolish the unsafe portions. In the first phase, 18 shops functioning on the ground floor of the mutt would be demolished,” Puri sub-collector Udaya Kumar Majhi told TOI. “The mutt will construct new shops where the displaced shopkeepers would be rehabilitated,” Majhi said.
“The high court has given me permission to construct shops and market complexes for the convenience of tourists. The Puri Konark Development Authority has been asked to approve the proposed building plan,” said Mahant Ramanuj Das, who was earlier arrested on charges of smuggling the silver ingots from mutt to outside. The government had then suspended him from the post of Mahant and recently reinstated him to look after the mutt.
Some citizens said that the government should demolish the entire structure spread over seven acres of land and construct a new building, including accommodation centres. “The entire Emar mutt is unsafe. Every year thousands of people clamber up the terrace to watch Rath Yatra. Who will be responsible if the building collapses,” asked Sailendra Narayan Acharya of Puri.
Non-Hindus, who are not allowed to enter Jagannath temple, use the mutt’s rooftop for an aerial view of the shrine. “Foreigners often risk their lives to see the temple from outside by climbing the rickety staircase of the mutt. The old building should be demolished for the safety of visitors,” Acharya added.