Staff Reporter

Many devotees have cancelled their tickets

Railway authorities fail to communicate the real picture to the devotees

Many hotel rooms in Puri and Bhubaneswar remain vacant

BHUBANESWAR: The Car Festival, Lord Jagannath’s annual sojourn, in Puri on Friday is likely to miss the usual congregation of divergent groups of devotees as Ministry of Railways failed to rise to the occasion by restoring train services along Orissa-West Bengal border.

Breaches caused by incessant rains in the northern Orissa and West Bengal had made the railway men helpless for a fortnight. Unable to cope up with the situation, the East Coast Railway (ECoR) has so far come out with four announcements about cancellation of trains.

With ECoR authorities not able to give information about ground reality to passengers, desperate devotees, who had held hopes that train services would be restored, started cancelling their tours in last minute. They have now been left high and dry.

As a result, hundreds of hotel rooms in Puri and Bhubaneswar are lying vacant. “A large number of devotees come from West Bengal. As per our calculation, 70 per cent of hotel rooms in Puri were cancelled within last couple of days,” Chairman of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Orissa (HRAO) J. K Mohanty said.

He said Air India, which withdrew its flights from the State, had made the matter worse. Few devotees could come to the State through private airline, Mr. Mohanty said.

Devotees were particularly peeved over the inconsistencies in announcements. The Car Festival is a nine-day-long festival in Puri. Devotees could have rescheduled their tour if a perfect picture was presented by railway authorities. However, it did not happen. There seems to be lack of coordination between South Eastern Railway and ECoR.

Buses and cars, which were ready to cross the border by alternative road routes, were charging heavy price. Most of the devotees expressed inability to afford it. Trains services are likely to remain cancelled till July 10.