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Mumbai: Peaceful darshans at Dadar's Siddhivinayak Temple from now

Updated on: 05 January,2024 04:41 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Shirish Vaktania |

Following this paper’s exposé, all illegal stalls demolished, as trust promises enough space, amenities and toilets for the devotees at Mumbai’s most famous temple

Mumbai: Peaceful darshans at Dadar's Siddhivinayak Temple from now

Stalls outside the temple were demolished by the BMC on Thursday. Pic/Anurag Ahire

Following mid-day’s reports, the BMC has swiftly removed illegal hawkers both inside and outside Siddhivinayak temple, demolishing their stalls on Thursday. The investigation by mid-day had revealed how these hawkers exploited devotees, offering VVIP darshan of Lord Ganesha for a hefty price. The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganpati Temple Trust (SSGTT) took action after mid-day highlighted the issue, ensuring a hassle-free experience for devotees inside the temple. Plans are underway to build public toilets and organise proper queues, enhancing facilities for visitors.

This paper highlighted the plight of hundreds of thousands of devotees who gathered at Siddhivinayak temple on October 2, during Vighnaharta Sankashti Chaturthi, seeking the darshan of Lord Ganesh. Agents promised VVIP darshan in just “2-3 minutes” for Rs 3,000. Reporters, posing as devotees, visited the temple and caught several agents on camera offering easy access for Rs 2,000, promising a chance to touch the Ganesh idol.

The sting operation exposed a racket involving flower shop owners and temple employees. Devotees paying were allowed in without waiting in the queue. The mid-day team paid at a stall and was ushered directly to the sanctum sanctorum for a VVIP darshan without queueing. No receipt was provided, revealing the illegitimacy of the fee, taken by the stall owners and temple trust employees. These vendors admitted to facilitating darshan during crowds, indicating the racket’s year-round operation.

Speaking with mid-day, temple trust chairman Sada Sarvankar, also an MLA from the Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena, said, “After mid-day’s investigation report, we decided to regularise all the stalls. The BMC is taking action and has removed all illegal stalls from the main entrance inside and outside the temple. We also have plans to establish proper queues and public toilets to provide facilities to all devotees. We have instructed all legal stalls to sell the Prasad plate at the proper rates. The stalls available outside and inside the temple are now legal and have a license issued by the BMC.”

MLA Sarvankar added, “After mid-day’s report, we analysed the entire temple area and discovered that numerous illegal stalls were charging high rates for the prasad thali. Now, everything is under control, and all stalls have been instructed to charge reasonable rates for the thali. There are currently a total of 91 legal stalls available inside and outside the temple. The remaining illegal stalls were demolished.”

A stall was demolished outside the Siddhivinyak temple. Pic/Anurag Ahire
A stall was demolished outside the Siddhivinyak temple. Pic/Anurag Ahire

MLA Sarvankar shared the temple’s historical context: back in 1998, 200 stalls operated without licenses, while only 6 were legally authorised by the BMC. A meeting involving CM Manohar Joshi, hawkers, Mumbai’s police commissioner, Mayor, and the BMC resolved to grant licenses to 85 pre-existing stalls. These licenses required a one-time payment of R2.5 lakh per owner for a 4x6 size stall. However, not everyone complied, leading to some stalls operating without a license.

Recently, the remaining stall owners agreed to pay and obtained their spaces within and around the Siddhivinayak temple. The BMC issued licenses specifically for selling prasad plates with flowers, limiting their permissions to food sales.

Sarvankar said, “For those with evidence of pre-1998 operations, we’re assisting in obtaining licenses. About 54 stall owners recently received licenses and are operating legitimately. Plans are in place to widen the road at the main gate by 20 feet to ease traffic.”

He added, “Over 7 lakh people visited the Siddhivinayak temple on New Year’s. Our goal is to provide proper toilet facilities and ample spaces for devotees to stand or sit. With all stall owners licensed, we aim to ensure the quality of prasad sold. We’ve collaborated with guardian minister Deepak Kesarkar and CM Eknath Shinde to develop the temple, and all illegal encroachments have been removed.”

After mid-day’s report, the Dadar police registered an FIR against three individuals captured by mid-day while offering VVIP darshan. The accused applied for anticipatory bail at the session court, but their bail was rejected. Additionally, one of the public relations staff members, who came under scrutiny for collusion with the touts, has been transferred to another department.

MLA Sarvankar said, “Siddhivinayak temple is Mumbai’s largest temple, and we are seeking the expertise to develop it with comprehensive facilities. We’re actively working on this plan.”

No of stalls that operated without a license in ‘98

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