If you are a senior government official you get preference over “common” devotees for a quicker and closer access to gods or at least that is what the administration of Jyotirlinga Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain believes.
In a new trend to appease the Who’s Who in the state, the temple administration has gone ahead and allotted quota for government officials for “bhasma aarti” rituals and created user IDs for them so that they can download the entry passes sitting in the comfort of their offices.
Bhasma aarti is a daily ritual which starts with the opening of the temple gates at 4 am. Devotees are given entry passed to witness the two-hour long ritual from corridors of the sanctum sanctorum.
The entry passes can be downloaded online from the temple website or procured from a kiosk at the premises.
It’s a no secret that influential people, including politicians, bureaucrats, journalists have been getting preference but the temple administration a few months back went overboard by allotting a “quota” for police, lokayukta, income tax, judiciary and district administration among others.
A temple document, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times, revealed that 15 seats each in nandi and ganpati mandapams have been allocated to the income tax department while the lokayukta and the police have a quota of five and 15 respectively.
The district administration keeps the lion’s share of 60 and 300 seats each in the Nandi and Ganpati halls. Departments like Railways, BSNL, State Bank of India are also “blessed” with a few seats each.
Amazingly, only 70 seats out of the 256 seats in Nandi hall and more than 1,000 out of 2,000 in the Ganpati hall are for common devotees.
Pilgrims who travel hundreds of kilometers have to return with a “darshan” of the gods as a “houseful” board is hung most of the time.
The story for “ordinary” devotees does not end here. The “blessed departments” do not have to use up to their quota every day as they do not have the number of VIP inflow but even then the remaining seats are not made available to pilgrims.
What adds to pilgrims’ woes is that the temple administration issues offline forms only for an hour from 7 am and devotees can be seen running around to get hold of one.
Veteran astrologer pandit Anandshankar Vyas, who had been the member of temple management committee for years, said the district officials have “a duty to look after VVIPs only” and are not concerned about pilgrims.
He said people who are to be treated as VVIP must be defined. “Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is inviting devotees from all over the globe for Simhastha but the district authorities are interested in welcoming VVIPs only.”
Satyanarayan Agrawal, a devotee, said everyone should be treated equally in a temple.
At least 38 devotees have lost their lives in a stampede at the temple premises in 1996 and the “VIP culture” was mentioned as the cause of the mishap in a judicial inquiry, which had suggested that the practice should be stopped.
Depts never use quota, says collector
Ujjain collector Kivendra Kiyawat said some departments were given a quota because these departments regularly approach the temple management for their guests.
He said reserving quota for departments will not affect the number of seats remaining for general devotees as the departments never use up their quota and the remaining seats are filled with common pilgrims.