Travelling 20 kilometres north of the city, on the outskirts of Ralla village, the holy shrine of Baba Jogi Peer Ji is usually crowded with his followers from across the world. But of late, the shrine doesn't have the same kind of gathering due as the 60-feet tower in the premises of the shrine has been declared unsafe by the Public Works Department (PWD).
The shrine of the spiritual leader, built in more than 15 acres of land, primarily sees followers from the chahal community of the state. Twice a year in the months of April and September, a fair is held on the premises where lakhs of devotees visit to seek blessings of Baba Jogi Peer.
Nobody knows the actual date of the construction of the shrine which also includes the tower which is supposed to have bent a few degrees towards the east. "We reviewed the building in July and found it to be unsafe. It is more than 50 years old. We submitted our report due to which the devotees were barred from climbing the tower," said sub-divisional engineer Sumit Jindal. The deputy commissioner however said that he had asked the police to ensure that no one even visits the premises of the shrine.
However, SHO Dalveer Singh denied having received any such order.
The ground situation, on the other hand, does not suggest that any such orders or review have been undertaken. On the last occasion when the fair was held in September, no one was allowed to visit the tower, but the premises were open for devotees. Sarpanch Sewak Singh and the panchayat members of Ralla village claim that the tower is closed for visitors from August 15. Cracks have developed in the ceiling of the shrine. Though closed for visitors, no one seems to know why the restoration work has not started yet and also why despite orders, the premises are still open for devotees.
"The tower may fall on its own and is a risk to anyone who visits it. The construction will start after we constitute a trust which will look after the shrine. The sarpanch has a dispute with several factions in the village. Each faction wants more members from their community to be a part of the trust. Due to this, the restoration work has hit a roadblock," said deputy commissioner Pravin Kumar Thind.
The locals however allege that the entire dispute between the current sarpanch and the aspirants for the trust membership is to take control of the funds the shrine receives every year. "No one is interested in restoration work, rather, all those running for the membership of the trust are more interested in controlling the funds," said one of the villagers.
Sewak Singh chose not to comment on the issue.