IN 1990, around 150 artisans had started the work of carving stones at Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s workshop for the proposed Ram temple at Ayodhya in Faizabad. Twenty-seven years later, the work continues, but with only one artisan.
For the last six months, 53-year old Rajnikant is the lone artisan working at the workshop. Others have left in search of better opportunities. Around an year ago, there were a dozen artisans working at the around three-acre workshop — run by Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas chief Nritya Gopal Das, against whom charges were framed by a Lucknow CBI court on Monday in the Babri demolition case.
On Wednesday, when Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had visited Ayodhya, Rajnikant was busy working under a tin shed at the workshop — located around 100 m from Karsevakpuram, where VHP leaders reside.
“When the carving had started 27 years ago, around 125 workers from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Mirzapur in UP were engaged. The enthusiasm then was at the peak. But most artisans left in search of other opportunities. One left for the US two years ago, where he got work at a project to build a Swami Narayan temple,” said Ahmedabad resident Girishbhai Sompura (60), who has been working as a supervisor at the workshop since 1992.
“At present, only one artisan is working here. But once there is clearance for building the Ram temple, work will be intensified and more workers will be arranged from other parts of country,” he added. Sompura and Rajnikant each earn Rs 12,000 a month. Sompura had started with Rs 3,000 in 1992.
Rajnikant, who had come to Ayodhya two years ago, said: “I am getting a fixed salary and it is enough for my family members, who live here on the workshop campus. I work for eight hours every day.”
When 35 tonnes of pink sandstone were brought to Ayodhya in December 2015, Opposition parties had alleged that BJP was trying to revive the temple issue ahead of the 2017 UP polls.
But almost 18 months have passed, and the stones are still lying unmoved in a field about 100 m away from the workshop. Much of the pink sandstone brought from Bharatpur in Rajasthan has been lying in the open for years and is starting to blacken. Behind the workshop too, stones — carved for use in the proposed temple’s walls and roof — lie in piles. Also, a machine meant to cut stones lies defunct from almost four years.
Within the workshop campus, piles of bricks with ‘Ram’ written on them in different languages — brought by karsevaks from across India and countries like Botswana, Canada, Sri Lanka and the US — have been put on display for visitors.
Earlier, VHP leaders had claimed that around 1.75 lakh cubic feet of stone was required to build the temple. Since 1990, approximately 1 lakh cubic feet of stone has been purchased. Around 30,000 cubic feet is left to be carved, the leaders claimed. The plan is to build a 268-foot long, 140-foot broad and 128-foot high temple across two floors with a shikhar (dome). Nritya Mandap, Rang Mandap, Garbh Grah and Singh Dwar are parts of the proposed temple.
“It will take at least five years to complete the work even after using the maximum possible work force,” said Sompura, while claiming that at present, only one stone was being carved in a year due to shortage of staff.
When contacted, VHP spokesperson in Ayodhya, Sharad Sharma, claimed that at present, four workers work in the workshop but some have gone on leave. “Almost 65 per cent of the work is over. For the remaining work, Nyas will increase the staff when required,” he said.