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Jagannath temple plans to sell land to raise Rs.1,000 Crore maintenance corpus

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JaganNath Temple, Puri, Odisha, India. Wikimedia Commons

Chinmaya Dehury

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.

Statue of a crouching lion over an elephant at the entrance of the Jagannath Temple, Puri, India. Wikimedia Commons
Statue of a crouching lion over an elephant at the entrance of the Jagannath Temple, Puri, India. Wikimedia Commons

“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 shinmaya.d@ians.in)

Next Story

This is How Stubble Burning is Avoided in Odisha

The state is one of the largest producers of rice in the country

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Stubble Burning, Odisha, North India
Agriculture in Odisha is the mainstay of the majority of the populace. Pixabay

Unlike north India, crop stubble burning is not prevalent in Odisha even though it has started making inroads unto several parts of the coastal state.

Air pollution due to stubble burning has turned a critical health hazard in north India.

Agriculture in Odisha is the mainstay of the majority of the populace. The state is one of the largest producers of rice in the country. The state government has fixed a target of procuring 60 lakh metric tonnes of paddy during the kharif marketing season (KMS), 2019-20.

However, instead of burning the stubble, the farmers use the paddy straw in various ways such as cattle feed, compost manure, roofing of thatched houses, biomass energy and mushroom cultivation.

Stubble Burning, Odisha, North India
Air pollution due to stubble burning has turned a critical health hazard in north India. Pixabay

“In Odisha, we don’t resort to paddy residue burning unlike in north India where pollution level has increased manifold due to crop stubble burning and other reasons. We cut down the paddy straw and bring it for using cattle fodder and roofing of thatched houses,” said farmer leader Akshay Kumar.

“I have purchased paddy straw of Rs 50,000 for mushroom cultivation. I have been doing mushroom cultivation for several years. Sometimes, I have purchased paddy straw at a higher price as many people have adopted the cultivation since it gives good profit,” said Stephenson Sahu from Patharkhamb village in Dhenkanal district.

Moreover, Odisha is going to have a Second Generation (2G) Ethanol Bio-Refinery, first in the country to produce ethanol using rice straw as feedstock, in Bargarh district, one of the major paddy producing districts in the state.

The bio-refinery to be set up by Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) will utilise about two lakh tonnes of rice straw annually as feedstock which will be sourced from nearby locations.

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The agriculture sector provides employment to more than 60 per cent of the population, making it the largest employment sector of the state.

The state has total geographical area of 155.71 lakh hectares of which total cultivated land is about 61.80 lakh hectares, which constitute about 39.69% of the total geographical area of the state. Small and marginal farmers form more than 90% of the farming community, according to a report of the Agriculture Department. (IANS)