No complaint from Rastrapati Bhavan: Odisha government on President’s visit

The Odisha government and the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) on Wednesday denied having received any communication from the Rashtrapati Bhavan about alleged misconduct towards President Ram Nath Kovind and his wife during their visit to the shrine in March this year.

The denials came a day after the media reported that the SJTA had received a letter from the Rashtrapati Bhavan which alleged that some servitors created problems for President Kovind and his wife Savita Kovind during their visit to the 12th-century shrine on March 18.

“We have not received any communication from the President’s office. They have not even made any oral complaint to us about misconduct by anyone. However, we are concerned over alleged misbehaviour towards devotees visiting the temple,” SJTA chief administrator P K Mohapatra told PTI.

When contacted, Chief Secretary A P Padhi, too, said that the state government had not received any communication from the Rastrapati Bhavan.

“No, we have not received any communication of any sort on this subject from the Rashtrapati Bhavan,” he told PTI.

The SJTA, however, did not reject the devotees’ allegations of misbehaviour by servitors in the temple and Mohapatra said the body was investigating such cases in general.

The Shree Jagannath temple management committee headed by Gajapati King of Puri Divyasingha Deb had at its March 20 meeting reportedly discussed the matter relating to alleged misbehaviour towards the first couple in the temple by a section of the servitors.

The minutes of the management committee meeting of March 20 noted that the Rashtrapati Bhavan had “expressed displeasure” over the conduct of some servitors when the President and the First Lady visited the shrine on March 18.

“The President’s office has expressed displeasure over the manner in which some servitors came close and brushed against the First Lady in the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine,” the minutes of the March 20 meeting said.

BJD spokesperson and MP P K Deb said the temple administration and the district police were probing the matter in the wake of media reports on the issue.

The alleged incident took place on March 18 when the temple was kept out of bound for common devotees from 6.35 am to 8.40 am to ensure smooth darshan for the president and his wife.

Only a handful of servitors and government officers were allowed to accompany Kovind and his wife inside the sprawling temple complex.

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