BJP protests against 'illegal' transfer of Puri dharmasala land in Odisha

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Upping the ante on the allotment of plots of a heritage dharmasala in the holy town of Puri to a few lodge owners by the Naveen Patnaik government, the BJP on Thursday started an online petition against the move and pushed for its cancellation.

The petition on, seeking cancellation of the allotment of Bagala Dharmasala plots by the state government, was launched by party’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra and state unit president Sameer Mohanty.

Patra, launching the campaign “Bagala bachao andolan”, said it was unfortunate that the state government wanted to give away part of the dharmasala’s land to influential persons for building their lodge.

“A Jagannath devotee Kanheya Lal Bagala had donated the land of dharmasala in 1905 to cater to the needs of pilgrims and economically backward devotees as thousands of visitors had to suffer due to lack of accommodation in the holy town. As there was a widespread epidemic at that time, a lot of pilgrims had died. The dharmasala served the poor devotees of Lord Jagannath who used to pay a very negligible amount towards their stay. It is quite sad that the building once meant for housing poor devotees is being given away illegally,” alleged Patra.

Since August last year, the Puri district administration had gone on a demolition spree, razing several mutts, lodges as well as private houses within 75-metre perimeter of the 12th century Jagannath temple over security threat. As part of relief and rehabilitation package to the lodge owners, the Puri district administration had allotted 0.34 acres of land of Bagala Dharmasala to five lodge owners whose lodges were demolished during the beautification drive last year.

The BJP, which over last fortnight has been protesting against the move of the state government, said the act has hurt the sentiments of crores of Jagannath devotees and Odias across the world. “This callous action by the state government is a huge humiliation for the Jagannath devotees,” said BJP state unit chief Sameer Mohanty.

The Odisha government in 2018, said the BJP leaders, had brought the dharmasala under the Central-assisted PRASAD scheme for its renovation work and an amount of Rs 21 crore was sanctioned. “The India Tourism Development Corporation started the work and spent approximately Rs 3.26 crore for the pile foundation after being allocated a plot near Jagannath temple. However, the state government abruptly stopped the work without any basis. It now seems the work was stopped so that some land of the dharmasala can be given to some BJD leaders,” alleged Patra.

BJD leader Amar Satpathy, however, dismissed the charges, saying the BJP did not want development of the heritage city of Puri.

Puri district administration said there has been no illegality in the allotment of plot as is being claimed.

“Just 0.34 acres of land of Bagala Dharmasala has been given to private lodge owners who had lost their commercial establishment as per the Relief and Rehabilitation policy approved by the state government. The lodge owners were given options of taking cash or land in lieu of their commercial establishment. Just six persons opted for government land on the Grand Road and accordingly 0.34 acres out of 2.78 acres land of Bagala Dharmasala was allotted to five of them. One of the five persons is a servitor of the temple,” said Singh.

The dharmasala building is still standing intact, he said.

“The rehabilitation policy is being executed to ensure the security of the temple, increase in capacity as well as the provision of better quality accommodation for pilgrims so that Puri emerges as a world heritage centre. We should acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices made by the servitors donating their centuries-old land properties for the cause of the Jagannath temple,” he said.

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