Oppn demands immediate inventory of Ratna Bhandar

Hours after Law Minister Pratap Jena told the Assembly that the government has no plans to open Lord Jagannath's 'Ratna Bhandar', opposition parties and servitors on Tuesday demanded an immediate inventory of gold and silver ornaments stored in the temple treasury.

Earlier, the Law minister while replying to questions told the Assembly on Tuesday that the ornaments in the Ratna Bhandar were safe and the state has no such plans to open it now.

He said the Ratna Bhandar was last opened in July 14, 1985. As per the inventory made in 1987, about 12,838 bhari of gold and 18,815 bhari of silver was inside the Ratna Bhandar.

However, the opposition BJP and Congress demanded that the Ratna Bhandar should be immediately opened and inventory made to ensure that the ornaments were intact in the treasury.

"What is wrong in opening the Ratna Bhandar. The government's act of avoiding the inventory creates doubt in the public mind on the existence of the Lord's ornaments. We should match the list made in 1978 by undertaking a fresh inventory," Leader of Opposition Pradipta Kumar Naik told reporters outside the Assembly.

Naik, who ahead of the winter session of the Assembly wrote a letter to Chief Minister seeking his intervention into Ratna Bhandar issues, said: "The government should form a committee and make a fresh inventory of the gold and silver ornaments."

Senior BJP leader and MLA B C Sethi said: "I knew that the government would not open Ratna Bhandar. Their corruption and loot may be exposed if they ever conduct an audit of it.

Congress lawmaker Suresh Chandra Routray, said: "I have a strong doubt that the Lord's ornaments are not safe. They might have been looted. Therefore, I demand the immediate opening of the Ratna Bhanfdar and its inventory."

Binayak Dasmohapatra, a senior servitor and Ashok Mohapatra, the vice-president of Mukti Mandap Pandit Sabha at Lord Jagannath Temple, also demanded an immediate inventory of the Ratna Bhandar as it was last made more than 40 years ago.

"There is a lot of confusion over the Ratna Bhandar. The government should open it and undertake inventory in order to assure the devotees that the Lord's ornaments are safe," said Mohapatra.

Lord Jagannath's Ratna Bhandar was in news last year after a 17-member team led by the then Chief Administrator of the temple PK Jena failed to open the inner chamber of the treasury due to lack of keys.

As missing of Ratna Bhandar keys created a nationwide outcry, the state government had appointed a judicial commission, headed by retired Justice Raghubar Das, to probe into the circumstances leading to the disappearance of the keys of the Ratna Bhandar.

Though Justice Das had submitted his 324-page long inquiry report to the state government on November 30, 2018, the content of the report was yet to be made public, said Congress MLA Suresh Chandra Routray.

However, the state government later claimed that a set of duplicate keys of Ratna Bhandar kept in a brown sealed envelope, was found from the locker of the district record room on June 13, 2018.

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