Amaravati, Sep 9 (IANS) The Andhra Pradesh government has suspended an Endowments Department official, making him responsible for dysfunctional surveillance cameras and the upkeep of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple in Antarvedi village in East Godavari district, where a radham (chariot) was destroyed in a fire.
"N.S. Chakradar Rao, executive officer, Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Devasthanam placed under suspension," ordered P. Arjuna Rao, Special Commissioner, Endowments Department.
When Endowments Minister Velampalli Srinivas Rao visited the temple on Tuesday afternoon to take stock of the situation, several people complained to him about the failings of Chakradar.
Taking cognizance of these complaints and to avoid public criticism over the blaze, the commissioner said he took the decision to suspend the temple officer.
Rao held Chakradar responsible for not maintaining the surveillance cameras, forcing the authorities to go on wild goose chase in finding the culprits responsible for the seven tiered chariot inferno on Saturday midnight.
"Several public and people's representatives have gathered and complained against the executive officer and alleged that the executive officer had failed to see the proper maintenance of CC cameras installed near the radham shed," said Rao.
Incidentally, Chakradar was holding the full additional charge (FAC) of the Antarvedi temple even as he is the regular officer for Sri Venkateshwara Swamy Temple in Amalapuram, a nearby village.
Following several other allegations on Chakradar, government Group Temples executive officer, Bokka Veera Venkatewara Rao, from Gudimellanka village in Malkipuram mandal has been entrusted with the full additional charge of Chakradar's regular role at Sri Venkateshwara Swamy Temple.
Meanwhile, more theories have emerged from locals about the chariot fire incident in the district.
"Some people are suspecting that a mentally unstable man who stays around the place could be responsible for the fire as he has the habit of collecting trash and burning it nearby, leaving some scope for sparks to fly on to the easily combustible palmrya leaves used to cover the chariot on the opening side of the room where it is stored," a local resident told IANS.
In another explanation, some locals are also suspecting the power struggle between two groups for one-upmanship in the temple affairs could also be a reason.
According to local sources, Kopanathi Krishnamma family, which had donated lands to the temple dominates its affairs but newer people are emerging to challenge their dominance.
Incidentally, the chariot was also insured only some months ago for the first time in its history.
Vellampalli Srinivas and Amalapuram Assembly Constituency MLA Pinpe Vishwarup urged the people not to believe rumours flying on the social media as well as outside.
Representing the state government, both the leader promised strict action against the culprits.
However, a few Hindu groups have protested against both the leaders for what has come to pass at the temple.
Antarvedi temple is famous for its 'Theerdham' (temple fair), drawing thousands of people from both West and East Godavari districts and beyond.
Known as the second Varanasi, Antarvedi temple is vividly mentioned in the Hindu scriptures and is associated with sage Vasishta and others.
The Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam runs an accommodation facility in the village.
Adorned with lakhs of coconut trees, scenic Antarvedi is located in the lush green Konaseema region of East Godavari district, 200 km east of Vijaywada, 130 km from Kakinada and 57 km southeast of Bhimavaram.
The temple village lies on the east coast of India by the Bay of Bengal, where the mighty Godavari river empties itself into the sea through the Vasishta Godavari distributary.