Bhubaneswar: Jagannath Temple in Puri owns 60,426 acres in Odisha and about 150 kg of gold besides many precious stones, Law Minister Pratap Jena informed Assembly Tuesday.
Giving a written reply to the house, Jena said, the 12th-century shrine also has 395.252 acres in six other states.
At least 322.930 acres are there in West Bengal followed by 28.218 acres in Maharashtra, 25.110 acres in Madhya Pradesh, 17.020 acres in Andhra Pradesh, 1.7 acres in Chhattisgarh and 0.274 acre in Bihar.
Stating that Lord Jagannath’s land is spread over 24 of the 30 districts of Odisha, the minister said, of the total 60,426.943 acres identified so far within the state, the temple administration could prepare final Record of Rights (RoR) over 34,206.734 acres. RoR for balance 26,220.209 acres is yet to be received, he said.
The minister further said that the temple has already lodged 386 cases against encroachments in different tehsils of the state as the deity’s land remains in illegal possession of different people and institutions.
“Encroachment cases have been made to recover 96.269 acres. These land encroachments have been detected in Cuttack, Puri, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Khurda and Balasore districts,” the minister said.
This apart, Jena informed the house that the temple administration has so far sold 341.308 acres and recovered about `10.64 crore. The amount earned from the land sale has been deposited in the temple corpus fund, he said, adding steps are being taken to dispose of more such land after their recovery.
Apart from landed properties, the deities own gold, silver ornaments which are stored in the ‘Ratnabhandar’ of the shrine at Puri.
“… last time, the inner chamber of the Ratnabhandar was opened July 14, 1985. The inventory made between May 13, 1978 and July 23, 1978 revealed that 454 gold ornaments of weight 12,838 ‘bhari’ (149.74 kg) along with precious stones and 236 silver ornaments of weight 18,815 bhari (219.45 kg) were stored in the Ratnabhandar,” he said. One bhari is equal to 11.6637 gm. “There were eight golden statues and six silver statues/utensils excluding the above mentioned list of jewels those couldn’t be measured for some unknown reasons,” added Jena.
The minister said the state government has no such immediate plan to open the Ratnabhandar now. Jena claimed that the gold, silver and other valuable items of the state are “safe” inside the Ratnabhandar.
The refusal of minister to audit Ratnabhandar drew criticism from all quarters. Senior Congress leader Suresh Routray wasn’t satisfied with the reply of the minister.
Routray said, “Millions of Jagannath devotees have the right to know about the details of jewellery stored in the Ratnabhandar. The government should conduct a joint audit of the treasure in presence of two sitting High Court judges and other top officials.”
Routray further alleged that, “Bureaucrats will loot all the treasure inside if the details aren’t made public soon.”
BJP deputy leader in the house—Bishnu Sethi said, “I knew that the government would not open Ratnabhandar. Their corruption and loot will be exposed, if they ever conduct an audit of it.”