Puri: The Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae Ranjit Kumar Saturday gave a clean chit to the state government’s eviction drive around Srimandir in Puri, as “it was being carried out with consent of the stakeholders to the benefit of the people.”
Kumar and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta visited the temple, and met Govardhan Peeth shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati and Puri Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingh Deb. It was followed by a meeting with senior government officials, including Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) chief administrator Krishna Kumar.
Based on the recommendations of a judicial panel, the Odisha government and the Puri district authorities have launched an eviction drive last month in the area surrounding the temple and all structures within 75 metres of its boundary wall are being cleared.
“We spoke to the temple managing committee members, took their views and inspected the eviction drive along the four sides of the temple,’’ Kumar told reporters.
“During our interaction with the people, we found out that no one is being evicted forcibly and the work that is being carried out will benefit the people,’’ said Kumar, who was appointed by the apex court to assist it in the matter related to the administration of Jagannath Temple.
The amicus curiae said he has discussed with the state government officials about the government’s development plans for Puri.
“The court has asked us to look into the state government’s action,” he said. “We have found the decision taken to convert Puri into a world heritage city is not adversely affecting local people. The work will help devotees and visitors,” he said.
Referring to the protests by local residents and monks, Kumar said the eviction drive was taken up after negotiations. “There is no need to stop the eviction drive,” he added.
Necessary preparations have to be made for ‘Nagarjuna Bhesa’ — in which the deities are dressed like warriors — that will be held in 2020 after 25 years. More than 15 lakh devotees are expected to witness the ceremony.
Meanwhile, several local residents and members of an organisation, Shrikhetra Surakshya Manch, have expressed their displeasure for not getting an opportunity to meet the two visiting officials.
“We were expecting to convey our grievances about the rehabilitation policy of the state government,’’ said Manch convenor Damodar Pradhani.