Puri, Odisha, India:
At 60,654 acres, Lord Jagannath could be the richest landlord among India’s deities. About 395 acres of it is now being sold to create a Rs.1,000 crore maintenance corpus for the 12th-century shrine here in the Lord’s name, an official said.
This is even as land sharks have grabbed vast patches of the 60,259 acres of Jagannath temple land across 23 districts in Odisha. The balance 395 acres is in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Of these states, West Bengal has the maximum – 322 acres – owned by the temple.
“The state government is in the process of selling temple land outside the state,” Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) chief Suresh Mohapatra told IANS.
Besides, the government has also written a letter to the district collector of Nainital in Uttarakhand to pay the market value of a 52-year-old building owned by the temple.
The owner of the two-storeyed building had donated the ground floor to the Jagannath temple on April 26, 1964, and it has been rented out as a post office.
There is, however, a huge catch: the state government does not have land records or ‘pattas’ for a whopping 27,331 acres spread across 111 tehsils in 23 districts.
“Out of 60,259 acres of Jagannath’s land identified by the SJTA, the state has record of rights (ROR) of only 32,927 acres. The balance 27,331 acres have no record of rights,” Law Minister Arun Sahu told the state assembly recently.
He also said that 340 cases have been filed against the land encroachers under the Sri Jagannath Temple Act 1955.
Sources said committees have been formed under the collectors of the districts concerned to collect details on the temple land and expedite the process of acquiring revised records.
The government had also planned to auction part of the temple land to boost the shrine’s revenues. The Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) has been asked to sell the land on plotting basis since it has expertise in land transactions. However, the government’s move has hit a roadblock as several villagers in the Jatani area of Khurdha district have moved the Orissa High Court.
“They have managed to get a stay order from Orissa High Court. We are trying to get the stay order vacated so that about 125 acres can be sold,” Mohapatra said.
(Chinmaya Dehury can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)