The ancient kaswa of Deotsidh, the seat of power of Baba Balak Nath, is in the news over encroachment of forest land, dilapidated condition of the serais (inns) located there and serai owners fleecing pilgrims visiting the shrine ahead of the annual Chaitra fair that begins March 14.
Nearly six million people from across India as well as abroad visit the temple during the year to pay obeisance to Baba Balak Nath.
The excise and taxation department raided all the privately owned serais and went through their records on the ground that they were overcharging pilgrims visiting the kaswa but not paying taxes to the state government.
It may be mentioned here that these serais were opened to accommodate visiting pilgrims at night free of charge.
Excise and taxation officer Virendra Sharma says his department undertook the searches to recover tax revenues due from those illegally charging pilgrims for staying in their inns.
Moreover, the physical condition of most of the serais is deplorable, with many on the brink of collapse.
Taking notice of the situation, former Hamirpur deputy commissioner Ashish Singhmar had asked the temple authorities and PWD officials to visit various shrines and take necessary action to improve the condition of the inns in conjunction with the inn owners.
The kaswa is also said to be in the grip of the land mafia that has encroached upon government-owned forest land and constructed a large building there. The forests department and the temple authorities have only now woken up to the matter.
With the annual Baba Balak Nath fair slated to begin from March 14, area residents want these issues to be addressed on priority basis.
A visit to the temple town shows preparations for the fair is yet to commence. However, local traders have started making huge purchases of various types of items needed by pilgrims during the fair.
Recently new Hamirpur deputy commissioner Rohan Chand Thakur visited the temple complex and discussed the various issues relating to the month-long fair starting with the temple management.
He also remained closet with Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, local MLA-cum-chief parliamentary secretary (CPS), and finalised the strategy for fair. He assured the CPS that all sorts of steps would be taken to provide facilities to the people visiting the temple town during and before the fair.
Thakur said no one would be allowed to fleece the pilgrims and if anyone was found overcharging he would be booked under the law of land.
"With a view to provide security measures during the fair, adequate number of police personals would be deputed and there will be a complete ban on carrying of arms, ammunition and lethal weapons during the fair in whole of the Badsar revenue sub-division of the district," he added.