In a New Year gift to disabled persons, the police have launched a transport service for them to reach Jagannath Temple in Puri. The service is free, police said.
“We have mobilized two police vans for poor disabled devotees, who cannot afford to hire autorickshaw or taxi. The vans are parked in front of the temple and Jagannath Ballav parking lot near Market Square,” said SP (Puri) Ashish Kumar Singh.
Police plan to rope in a voluntary organization to engage more vehicles. “Since police vehicles cannot always be used to transport disabled and needy pilgrims to the temple, we will explore other possibilities,” Singh said.
At present, the Jagannath Temple administration has a bus service, being run on PPP mode, for the pilgrims. But, the passengers are charged a nominal fare.
Police also plan to engage some volunteers to escort disabled pilgrims into the temple. Though the temple administration had started a similar service for disabled pilgrims in 2008, it was discontinued in 2010. The temple administration had engaged four men and three women assistants for this purpose.
“The assistants used to take disabled persons on their shoulders to the temple. “Since wheelchairs and stretchers are not allowed into the temple, we had engaged assistants. But the facility was stopped due to some problems,” said the temple’s public relations officer Laxmidhar Pujapanda. He did not spell out the problems.
The Jagannath Temple plans to start battery-operated vehicles between Gundicha Temple and Jagannath Temple to reduce carbon footprints. A carbon footprint is defined as ‘total sets of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, a product or a person’.
“We have consulted some companies. It will take final shape shortly,” said another temple officer.
Initially, the temple body plans to launch the service between Market Square and Jagannath Temple. The temple administration is also contemplating to join hands with Barefoot, a Puri-based voluntary organization, whose ‘green rider rickshaw’ service won President’s award in 2013. “If possible, we will hire the rickshaws to provide transport to devotees,” the officer said.