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Jagannath Temple's Rath Yatra telecast auction plan

Servitors not happy

By Subhashish Mohanty in Bhubaneswar

  • Published 10.06.19, 3:23 AM
  • Updated 10.06.19, 3:23 AM
The Jagannath Temple in Puri
The Jagannath Temple in Puri The Telegraph file picture

The Jagannath Temple administration is auctioning the live telecast rights for the Rath Yatra and will open the bids on Monday, amid protests from some of the servitors who consider the decision too “commercial”.

P.K. Mohapatra, chief of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration, told The Telegraph the shrine authorities had tried to sell the live telecast rights in 2011 too “but could not be successful”.

“We are making a renewed effort this year. The news channels earn a lot by telecasting the Rath Yatra live but the temple does not receive even a small slice of the revenues they generate,” he said.

Mohapatra added: “We have invited expressions of interest from reputable TV channels. The bids will be opened tomorrow (Monday). Let’s wait for it.”

After the deadline for submitting bids passes at 4.30pm on Monday, the bids will be opened at 4.45pm in the presence of the applicants or their representatives.

Only TV channels with at least five years’ experience of producing and telecasting news and features are eligible to apply. The channel that wins the bid will have exclusive rights to cover the Rath Yatra rituals, starting from Snana Yatra (bathing of the deities) on June 17 to the Niladire Vije (return of the deities to the temple, marking the end of the Rath Yatra) on July 14.

This year the Rath Yatra starts on July 4, with the Suna Vesha (decoration of the deities with gold ornaments) on July 12.

Whichever channel wins the bid will have to share the feed free of charge with national broadcaster Doordarshan, and must follow all the laws and rules of the governments of India and Odisha.

“In case of a dispute, the decision of the temple administration will be final and binding. With this clause we hope to avoid any controversy and ensure that everything goes smoothly,” a temple official said.

Some servitors at the temple are, however, unhappy. “We should not stop any channel from telecasting the Rath Yatra on the pretext of raising the temple’s revenue base,” Ramakrushna Das Mohapatra, spokesperson for the Daitapati Niyog, an association of servitors, said.

“The TV channels are taking the Rath Yatra to every corner of the globe. They should be encouraged. We should not look at everything from the commercial angle. There are other ways of increasing revenues.”

Another servitor, Damodar Padhani, said: “The temple administration should have sought permission from the Chhattisha Niyog (confederation of servitors) for the move. It cannot take such a decision suo motu (by itself).”

The temple administration aims to generate revenues of Rs 102 crore this financial year. It has earmarked a budget of Rs 6 crore for the organisation of the Rath Yatra.

“We have set ourselves the target of increasing the shrine’s corpus of funds to Rs 700 crore from the existing Rs 650 crore,” a temple official said.

The temple administration expects to generate Rs 15 crore by selling land the shrine owns outside Odisha.

“We have so far detected 60,418.353 acres of land belonging to the shrine. Of this, only 33,843.643 acres are recorded in the name of the temple,” an official said.

“Some 395.252 acres of the temple land lies outside the state. Steps are being taken to recover the land and regularise it in the land records,” an official said.

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