The BJP on Thursday condemned the Odisha government’s alleged decision to sell over 34,000 acre of landed property of Lord Jagannath in and outside the state, a charge denied by Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA). Leader of the Opposition PK Naik of the BJP said that Law Minister Pratap Jena has made it clear in the Assembly on March 16 that the BJD government had decided to sell over 34,000 acre of land owned by Lord Jagannath.
SJTA chief administrator, Krishan Kumar, however, clarified that lands which are under illegal possession of a number of people for long, are being settled by the temple authorities as per a policy framed around two decades ago with an objective to protect the lands of Lord Jagannath. The administration of Lord Jagannath’s temple in Puri is under the law department of the state government and the SJTA, which is responsible for management of the shrine, is headed by a senior IAS officer.
To a question of BJP member Mohan Majhi, the law minister said in a written reply on March 16 that 60,426 acre of land in the name of Lord Jagannath has been identified in 24 districts across the state and of this, over 34,800 acre has been reclaimed and recorded in the name of the temple administration. This apart, over 395 acre of land of Lord Jagannath has been identified in six states — West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. The authorities concerned in those states have been communicated to facilitate sell of land there, Jena said.
”Based on the recommendation of a (judicial) commission, the government has been taking measures to sell certain land under unified policy,” the minister said. In a Twitter post, the senior BJP leader described the decision to ”sell” the land owned by Lord Jagannath as ”highly objectionable, unethical, against the spirit of crores of Hindus”.
The plots of land do not belong to the government but to God, Naik said. ”Sell of land of any temple, particularly received by the government in the form of donation, is illegal. Government of Odisha cannot work like property dealer, sell the lands for revenue,” he said.
SJTA chief administrator, Krishan Kumar, said that the allegation is ”false and motivated”. In a statement, Kumar said that plots of land under occupation of others are being settled under the ”Unified Policy”.
The policy was framed to bringing transparency and uniformity in the process to be followed for settlement of land to eligible persons, he said. He pointed out that a total of 291 acre of land was settled between 2001 and 2010 while it had been 96 acre between 2011 and 2021.
The SJTA urged people and devotees of Lord Jagannath not to be misguided by ”malicious” and ”false” reporting.