Taking serious note of the MiD DAY report yesterday on a failed attempt to blow up the Shreemant Dagadusheth Halwai Ganapati temple on the day of the German Bakery blast, the temple trustees appealed to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to ensure the area within 100 feet of the temple is cleared of all encroachments.
It was reported by MiD DAY that Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui, an alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative, had confessed to the Delhi police that he had tried to place a bomb near a flower vendor on the temple premises on February 13 last year. The attempt was unsuccessful as the flower vendor noticed the bag and asked Siddiqui to not keep it there.
Security threats: Encroachments along the pradakshina path
Ashok Godse, a trustee of the temple, said a letter had been dispatched to Chavan bringing up the issue of encroachments. "The terror attacks that have taken place all across India in recent times show the suspects targeted places close to sensitive establishments.
The yard where recovered stolen vehicles are parked by the Faraskhana
Considering this, we have written a letter to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra requesting him that urgent steps are necessary to clear the entire area around the temple of encroachments," he said.
People other than devotees use the public toilet on the premises
Mahesh Suryavanshi, treasurer of the trust, said to ensure security the temple was taking all necessary steps in its power like posting sufficient guards and using baggage scanners, but there were some issues which only the state authorities could solve.
A garbage bin 25 feet from the temple. Pics/Krunal Gosavi
"The trust is upgrading the security measures at the temple, but we feel that the issue of stalls mushrooming around the temple needs to be addressed," he said. "Besides the stalls, there is the issue of the Faraskhana police using government land to park recovered stolen vehicles. As the parking lot is close to the temple, there is potential danger if unidentified objects are kept in the parked vehicles. Moreover, the large garbage bin nearby is a major cause of concern, considering the past trends wherein terrorists placed explosives in lesser important spots that were close to the sensitive spots."
On the issue of the recovered vehicles, Joint Commissioner of Police Sanjeevkumar Singhal said the point made by the temple would be considered. "We will look into the matter," he said. "The temple has its own security and, besides this, an SRPF platoon is posted in the premises most of the time.'
Licensed stalls few
Sources in the Pune Municipal Corporation said only 18-20 small stall owners on the temple premises had licences and all other flower vendors were doing business illegally. They added that as a result of repeated terror threats to the temple, letters had also been sent to legal stall owners asking them to shift elsewhere. The PMC sources also pointed out how the temple authorities had indulged in encroachment by installing barricades and that on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi the queue of devotees blocked the road. Vishrambaug and Kasba Peth ward officer Arun Khilari, who recently took the charge of the post, said he needed time to gather information on these issues before commenting.
Stall owners can't remember incident
Residents of Budhwar Peth who own 15 stalls on the Dagadusheth Halwai temple premises were unable to remember if any incident of a man trying to place a suspicious bag had occurred on February 13 last year. Neelam Kadam, a former BJP corporator whose family owns five stalls, said: "We've employed youths from Latur, who work here on temporary basis. We do not remember if any man approached us on the day of the bakery blast. As a rule we do not allow devotees to keep their bags at the stalls." Kadam added that the PMC had denied them licences.