Bhubaneswar: In the aftermath of the news that 35,000 acres of Jagannath land are up for sale, questions are being now raised over the ‘Uniform Policy’ that will purportedly determine the value of land.
Observers said the concept of the Uniform Policy is faulty as land scattered across the state cannot be valued at the same rate. For example, land in Khurda district cannot be equated with land in remote Nuapada district. Similarly, questions were also raised who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the policy—the temple or the encroachers.
The report published in this newspaper Monday triggered an earthquake of reactions in the social media with people cutting across parties attacking the government’s policy to sell the Jagannath land. The Uniform Policy has also not been discussed in the House.
Even though over 60,426.923 acres of land belonging to Lord Jagannath have been detected in 24 districts in the state, the temple administration has been able to get record of rights (RoR) for 34,876.983 acres only.
The largest area of land is in Khurda district (29,752.907 acres) followed by Puri (17,071.212), Cuttack (3214.063), Bhadrak (2937.300), Ganjam (2869.919) and Kendrapara (1184.177). Other districts where temple lands are located are Balasore (866.960), Jajpur (836.155), Jagatsinghpur (701.019), Nayagrah (268.860), Dhenkanal (214.174) and Angul (117.840). Districts that have less than 100 acres are Bargarh, Sambalpur, Bolangir, Gajapati, Rayagada, Koraput, Sonepur, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Sundergarh, Kalahandi and Nuapada.
However, most of the temple land has either been encroached or under possession of various persons for a long time. To settle the dispute, the state government adopted a Uniform Policy in 2003. However, the controversy has refused to go. Leader of Opposition Pradipta Naik strongly condemned the move of Odisha government to sell 34,806 acres owned by Mahaprabhu Jagannath. “This is highly objectionable, unethical, against the spirit of crores of Hindus. Temple lands, property belong to gods and not the government, he said.
SJTA denies ‘land sale’
hief administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Krishan Kumar issued a clarification Thursday contradicting the statement made by Law Minister Pratap Jena in the House March 16.
Jena had said the Odisha government is taking steps to sell off approximately 35,000 acres of Jagannath Temple land as per the recommendation of the BD Sharma Committee. Kumar, however, claimed the media reports based on the minister’s statement is ‘false and motivated’.
“Lands which are occupied or are under the possession of people since long belong to Shree Jagannatha Mahaprabhu. Those are being settled by the temple committee as per the ‘Unified Policy’, framed for the purpose in the year 2003,” Kumar said in a tweet. Kumar, however, mentioned that 291 acres were settled between 2001 and 2010 and 96 acres have been settled between 2011 and 2021. These have been settled for the benefit of the public mostly in the form of schools, medical college and roads, among others, he said.