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 from March 14.
Nearly five to six million people from India and abroad visit the temple each year to pay obeisance to Baba Balak Nath. Recently, the state excise and taxation department raided all the privately owned serais and went through their records on the grounds that they were overcharging pilgrims visiting the kaswa, but not paying taxes to the state government.
Initially, serais were opened here to provide free nightstay to visiting pilgrims. Excise and taxation officer Virendra Sharma said 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 land mafia, which 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 are yet to commence. However, local traders have started making huge purchases of various types of items needed by pilgrims during the fair.