Bhubaneswar, Aug 22 (PTI) Accusing the BJD government in Odisha of having become a property dealer, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra on Saturday alleged that the Puri district administration has started selling the land of a century-old dharamashala in an illegal manner.
The Puri district administration has denied the allegation and said the Bagala Dharmashala land has not been sold to any private lodge owner but only 12 per cent of its total area has been used to rehabilitate some servitors of Shri Jagannath Temple who have given their land for a beautification project.
Patra, who was on a visit to Odisha, told reporters that sale of land of any dharmashala, particularly any property received by the government in the form of donation, is illegal.
In order to please some senior leaders and officers, the state government has demolished a part of the dharmashala meant for poor pilgrims. The state government itself has become a property dealer, the BJP leader alleged.
Stating that a devotee, Kanheya Lal had donated the land to Bagala Dharmasala in 1905 to cater to the needs of pilgrims and the poor devotees visiting Puri, he said the land is now being sold illegally by the state government and the district administration.
As part of a beautification project near the Shri Jagannath Temple, several people were evicted from areas within 75 metres from the boundary wall of the shrine, he said adding that 300 people were affected but only a handful of them were provided land at the Bagala Dharmasala site.
Patra also said that the Centre had provided an assistance of Rs 20 crore to Bagala Dharmasala for the development of facilities to accommodate pilgrims and work had already commenced, but it was stopped after spending Rs three crore and plotting was made on the land for selling.
Plots have so far been sold to six persons, the BJP leader alleged and demanded that the state government immediately stop plotting on the Dharmashala land and accelerate the construction work for Jagannath Tirtha Niwas for accommodating poor pilgrims visiting the seaside town.
BJP leaders have claimed that the interests of devotees of Lord Jagannath and tourists have been ignored by the government.
Puri MLA Jayant Sarangi and his supporters launched an agitation demanding cancellation of the sale of land.
The Shree Jagannath Bishram Sthali project under PRASAD scheme has been arbitrarily dropped and attempts are being made to hand over the land of the Dharmashala to six people, Sarangi alleged.
Denying the allegation, the district administration in a statement said that Bagala Dharmashala is situated over 2.738 acre and its building has the capacity to accomodate 200 people.
It is wrong to say that Dharmashala land has been sold to private lodge owners, it said adding only 12 per cent of total area related to its premises have been utilized to rehabilitate sevayats and persons who have given their land, which is in very close vicinity of the Srimandir - that is within the 75 m corridor.
The persons who have given away their land are mostly sevayats who have been residing and utilizing this donated land and serving the deity for centuries. It is because of the appeal of the government that they donated the land to the temple for the corridor project, it said.
The state government has rehabilitated some of them on the land now belonging to the revenue department, the statement said.
The rehabilitation policy has been approved by the cabinet and is being executed to ensure the temple's security, increase capacity as well as provision for better quality accommodation for pilgrims so that Puri emerges as a world heritage center, it said.
While Bagala Dharmasala was running a lodge with a capacity of 200 pilgrims, the state government is already constructing a pilgrim center with a capacity of 2000 for poor pilgrims.
Further, the state government is going to add lodging capacity of 8000 for poor pilgrims in Puri. Thus, the state government is in the process of almost increasing the poor pilgrim accommodation in Puri by 50 times - from 200 to 10,000, it said.
It is important that we acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices made by the sevayats in donating their centuries old land properties for the cause of Srimandir. The state government has approved and implemented Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy for their appropriate rehabilitation, it added. PTI SKN KK KK KK KK KK