Sai Baba Trust gives facelift to pilgrim city Shirdi

May 25th, 2008 - 12:19 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil
By V. Vijayalakshmi
Shirdi (Maharashtra), May 25 (IANS) Roads, a hospital, an electricity generation project…a trust run in the name of 20th century saint Shri Sai Baba is changing the face of this pilgrim town by initiating development works and giving his philosophy of serving people a whole new meaning. Jayant Sasane, president of the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, told IANS: “We want to give Shirdi a new look. Everyone knows about Sai Baba’s wishes to serve.”

Today the Sai Temple has become one of the most popular destinations among pilgrims in India. On an average, 50,000 people visit Shirdi daily, and during holidays the rush is even more. Shirdi is about 300 km from Mumbai.

But unlike most religious towns, Shirdi has more to it than the holy shrine. The Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust responsible for the maintenance of the temple wants to ensure prosperity of the whole town along with the growing opulence of the temple.

“In line with his thinking, the trust has started a super-specialty hospital at a cost of Rs.400 million with a capacity of 205 beds. The hospital has all the latest medical equipment. Patients are operated here with the help of state-of-the-art machinery.”

Within a year and a half since its inception, the hospital has conducted more than 5,000 surgeries, out of which 1,000 are bypass surgeries - 400 of them for patients the below poverty line under the government’s Jeevan Dayani Scheme.

The trust, with the help of Sulzan Energy Ltd, Pune, has also come up with its own windmill project at Bhoyre Pachhar in Ahmednagar district at a cost of Rs.150 million. With a capacity of 2.5 MW, this project will make Shirdi completely energy self-sufficient.

Mohan Yadav, public relations officer of the trust, told IANS: “The other major project of the trust is the construction of new roadways. The Sansthan wants to change the entire face of Shirdi. The total cost of the project is Rs.1,250 million, which when completed will change the entire map of Shirdi.”

An agreement has been signed with the Maharashtra State Development Board for the development of 25 roads within Shirdi and also connecting Shirdi city. In the first stage, the project will cost Rs.650 million for 11 roads.

The other major project scheduled to be completed by July this year is the new ‘prasadalaya’ or dining hall. Built on seven acres of land it will accommodate 6,000 devotees at one go, perhaps making it the biggest dinning hall in Asia.

According to Sasane, most of the cooking will be solar cooking using ultra modern appliances, giving hygiene primary importance. The Sansthan spends Rs.300 million annually to feed devotees. The prasadalaya was recently inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil.

It was on a Dussehra day in 1918 when Shri Sai Baba took samadhi here. Ever since, thousands of devotees have been turning up in Shirdi daily irrespective of their religion.

“A Sai devotee from Chennai, K.V. Ramani, has donated Rs.1 billion for a bhaktiniwas - it is the biggest donation in the history of the trust. The lodge on completion will accommodate 16,000 devotees,” added Sasane.

“Education is another area which the Sansthan has been laying emphasis on. The trust runs the Industrial Training Institute which is considered one of the best in Maharashtra,” said Yadav.

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