TIRUPATI: Good days are ahead for the Hathiram Mutt headquartered in Tirupati, a majority of whose lands some 2,000 acres across the country have been under illegal occupation or are locked in legal disputes for a long time. The Andhra Pradesh government has begun the process of identifying the Mutt's lands in Tirupati Urban and Rural mandals that have been occupied by squatters. These will then be sold to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) on behalf of the mutt, provided of course the price is agreeable to both parties.
Large tracts of the Mutt's land are under illegal occupation in Tirupati and many of them have changed hands several times. On some, the present owners, knowingly and unknowingly, have built buildings and houses. In a weary gesture, the Mutt has set up boards on lands that are still unoccupied claiming ownership and warning trespassers of prosecution.
Apparently upon instructions from the government, the Chittoor district administration has begun the exercise of mapping the Mutt-owned lands and assess what can be done to reclaim them.
According to revenue officials, the Mutt has about 500 acres of land in Tirupati Urban mandal, Only 55 acres remain vacant. The remaining are under encroachment or the subject of litigation. In Tirupati Rural, the Mutt has 690 acres of which 190 acres have been found occupied, 145 acres vacant and 136 acres in court litigation. Some 215 acres have been leased out by the Mutt.
"The government has taken up the work suo motu though. We are finding out the extent of the land and who has occupied them. The identified structures will be geo-tagged and colour-coded in about a month," a revenue official told New Indian Express.
The Mutt was founded by Hathiram Baba and used to administer the Venkateswara temple of Tirumala till 1933 when the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) took over the responsibility. The Mutt has lands in several parts of in the country including Mumbai. Sources said that the mutt has close to 2,000 acres of land in not only in AP, but also in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Mutt representatives are wary of saying how much of its land has been occupied. "We have large extents of land and large parcels are under illegal occupation," one representative said.
With the district administration now taking up the problem, those who are in illegal possession of the Mutt's lands would have to cough up money for regularisation. "In about a month, we will complete the process of identification and then the committee that has been tasked to do this job would sit and decide on regularisation of the existing encroachments and resumption of the lands that remain vacant now," the revenue official said.