Demands are on to restore the dilapidated ‘Gudisa Chetty Choultry’ in Berhampur and provide it a heritage building status as it was a key centre and meeting point of leaders in south Odisha during the freedom movement.
Former Deputy Speaker of Odisha Assembly Ram Chandra Panda, working president of Berhampur Nagarika Manch Govind Dash, president of Andhra Bhasha Bivardhani Samajam P.Satyanarayana, former Berhampur mayor S. S. Dash, former president of Arya Vaisya Sangham P. Chitty Babu have sent a joint memorandum to the Odisha Governor on the issue. According to senior citizens of the city, in the early years of the 19th Century a philanthropist of Chatrapur named Gudisa Veeraya Chetty had established a charitable trust and this ‘choultry’ or shelter home for the travellers and needy near Berhampur railway station. The founder of this establishment had also donated around 200 acres of land to the trust and the ‘choultry’ for its maintenance and provision of at least 30 free meals to the poor and needy every day.
Mr Panda said as per historians, this ‘choultry’ had links with major events of history of Odisha including formation of modern Odisha state on linguistic basis as well as the freedom movement. Key leaders of freedom movement travelling to Berhampur and south Odisha used to stay in this ‘choultry’. “Former President V. V. Giri used to organise his trade union activities from this ‘choultry’. It was also the place of political activity of former Governor and freedom fighter Biswanath Das, associates of Netaji, firebrand freedom fighters like Dibakar Patnaik and Jagannath Mishra used camp in this ‘choultry’ for their organisational activities,” said Mr Panda and Mr Babu.
They lamented that the building was now dilapidated. They also added that without approval of competent authorities a portion of this ‘choultry’ has leased out an NGO to operate a centralised kitchen for Mid Day Meal (MDM) for schools.
Now, they are demanding an independent enquiry and audit into the assets, income and expenditure of this trust. They also want the Berhampur sub-collector to be appointed the executive officer of the trust to undertake necessary renovation of the building. “We want this historic building to be declared a heritage building and a library be opened on its premises in memory of freedom fighters who used to visit it,” said Mr Panda.