Following this paper’s sting on special darshan racket, Prabhadevi temple trust approaches police for clean-up act
A crowd of devotees gathered outside the Siddhivinayak temple. File pic/Sameer Markande
- The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganpati Temple Trust has filed an FIR against three unknown people
- The FIR followed mid-day’s exposé regarding the ‘VVIP darshan’ scam
- Following the FIR, a notice will be served to 12 employees and other staff as well
The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganpati Temple Trust has filed an FIR against three unknown people for allegedly duping the trust by collecting large sums of money to allow people in for ‘VVIP darshan’ at the temple. The FIR followed mid-day’s exposé regarding the ‘VVIP darshan’ scam wherein flower stall owners and trust employees were hand in glove. Following the FIR, a notice will be served to 12 employees and other staff as well. Also, taking cognisance of the report, the trust has taken steps to ensure hassle-free darshan for devotees, including a reshuffle of the staff and measures to put an end to the tout nexus.
On October 3, three correspondents of mid-day carried out a sting operation at the Shree Siddhivinayak Temple in Prabhadevi. The sting exposed the racket run by flower shop owners with the help of temple employees, wherein devotees who shelled out Rs 3,000 were allowed in without having to wait in the queue. The mid-day team paid the amount at a stall owner and were ushered in by an employee directly to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple for a VVIP darshan, without having to wait in any queue. However, no receipt was provided for the amount paid, which established that it wasn’t a legitimate fee, but was usurped by the stall owners and temple trust employees. The stall owners also claimed they facilitate the darshan whenever there is a crowd, confirming that the racket is active throughout the year.
The Siddhivinayak temple sees large crowds on days like Sankashti Chaturthi. File pic/Pradeep Dhivar
After the exposé, the temple trust had assured mid-day it would carry out a deep investigation and identify those facilitating the racket. Trust officials screened CCTV videos across the temple and checked the footage of mid-day reporters with the touts and their movements inside the temple. The footage also showed how the reporters were easily ushered inside the temple without any receipt or registration. The footage helped identify those involved in the racket.
“In the footage, the tout was seen clearly with the reporters. At 6.22 pm, when Siddhi gate was opened after daily cleaning, they came inside the temple area and went towards the PRO office where one of the reporters spoke with peon Santosh Dalvi. Dalvi spoke with someone on the phone and at 6.25 pm, he took the trio inside the temple without making any registrations at the PRO office. When one of the reporters was recording the event, Dalvi asked him not to record it and took them inside the temple from Ashirvachan gate,” the internal report mentions.
Based on the findings, Sanjeev Pawar, manager of the trust, wrote a complaint letter to Dadar police station asking for the culprits to be booked. Subsequently, the Dadar police filed an FIR against three unknown persons.
Confirming the development, Rajendra Awhad, senior inspector, Dadar police station, said, “The temple trust has submitted all the proof and based on that, an FIR has been registered against three unknown persons under Sections 420 (cheating) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. We are investigating further.” According to police sources, two of the suspects have been untraceable.
Sada Sarwankar, who was recently appointed as a chairman of the Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapti Temple Trust, said, “We took cognisance of mid-day’s report and based on that, an internal inquiry was held involving screening of CCTV footage and questioning of staff. The temple trust continues to fully cooperate with the investigating agency. The rates for various types of darshan have been made public and details for mode of payment have also been uploaded on the website and app. We urge devotees not to get involved with such touts and shell out money, especially on Sankashti Chaturthi, when there are huge crowds. The trust runs the temple operations in a very transparent way and there is no room for such rackets.”
Sting brings change: According to temple trust spokesperson Veena Patil, a lot of changes have been made following the mid-day report. “The first step was placing boards which stated that a R1,500 pass is the official pass and the registration is done only in the temple. We also changed the department of the PRO concerned. After mid-day submitted proof we have been proactive and are trying our level best to ensure hassle-free darshan,” Patil said.
Patil added that changes have also been made to the queue system and that the demand for authentic passes had increased. “We have two lines, one for VVIP darshan entries and the other for those who pay R1,500 for darshan. We will keep rotating the PRO,” she said.
Day mid-day exposed nexus