Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Row erupts after private footwear stalls razed outside Kolhapur Mahalaxmi Temple

A massive row erupted after the Kolhapur civic body swooped on nearly two dozen private footwear caretaker stalls outside the famed 1,400-year-old Shree Karveer Nivasini Ambabai/Mahalaxmi Temple here on Tuesday.

A team of the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC) arrived with a bulldozer and a posse of police to raze the footwear caretakers’ stalls lining the external boundary walls of the temple and surrounding areas.

A temple official claimed that the stalls are illegal and were making money from the thousands of pilgrims who throng here daily for a darshan of Goddess Mahalaxmi daily, one of the ‘three-and-half Shakti Peethas’ as per Hindu Puranas.

“We have already constructed a new, much bigger footwear caretaker area offering free services through our volunteers, near the parking lot outside the temple. The private stalls claim to be ‘free’ but they actually fleece the public,” said the official.

The KMC action came after a purported complaint by the temple authorities who are now making all-out preparations for the massive crowds expected for the upcoming Navratri festival starting on October 15.

While the KMC, temple and police have declared the private stalls as ‘illegal’, local Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists alleged that some people demanded ‘illicit gratification’ leading to the sudden demolition drive.

Some of the stall-owners, mostly women, were in tears and claimed that their premises were demolished despite a court stay, no notice was served by the civic body and high-handed behaviour by the police, and demanded action against such cops.

One of the women said that they have been running their stalls without problems for more than 25 years, but after the temple constructed its new stand, the private owners were abruptly targeted, and they have lost their livelihood.

The civic body has termed these private stalls as ‘encroachers’ who were obstructing the pathway to the main temple, posing difficulties to the pilgrims.

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