VIPs will not henceforth get preference over common folks for quicker access to the gods.
At least twice a year there were clamours among the Who's Who of Chandigarh and the adjoining tri-state area to get closer to the divine with special passes for quicker access to the shrine. This time the "VIP culture" - much detested by ordinary people who had to stand in queues for hours - has been put an end to with authorities deciding to do away with the special passes for the Navratra Festival at the Mata Mansa Devi shrine in Panchkula near here.
Panchkula Deputy Commissioner Vivek Atray has made it clear that VIP and VVIP passes will not be issued for the Navratras - a nine-day auspicious period in the Hindu religious calendar. The bi-annual festival gets under way on Saturday. Tens of thousands of devotees throng the shrine from the region, comprising Chandigarh, Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, twice every year - in March and October. The shrine got over a million devotees last year.
With thousands of influential people and VIPs vying to get special passes for the festival, local authorities and police were stretched to accommodate them. Tempers would rise with the VIPs being given easy access to the shrine through a special entrance and allowed to get closer to the deity at the cost of the common devotees who had to slog it out for hours for their brief turn - lasting barely four-five seconds - to worship the Hindu goddess.
Officials in the Panchkula district administration say that over 10,000 VIP and VVIP passes used to be issued. Each pass allowed up to four people through the VIP route. The VIPs were also entitled to special drive-in parking closer to the shrine so that they did not have to walk much.
"We have decided not to issue any special passes this time. We want the arrangements to be foolproof for all," the dynamic Atray told IANS.
"We are focussing on providing good and comfortable arrangements for all. We cannot have so many VIPs," he added.
The VVIPs expected this time include Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on the first day and Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki on the last day. Other VVIPs likely to arrive at the shrine will include ministers, lawmakers, judges, senior bureaucrats and police officers.
The administration has made arrangements for golf carts to ferry the elderly and physically challenged devotees.
"It is a good thing that the administration has thought of. We need to get rid of this VIP culture. Only then will things improve for everyone. Presently, the common man suffers while VIPs enjoy the privileges," Panchkula businessman Rohit Bansal told IANS.