Lord Jagannath __ “Dianabandhu” or God of the poor as He is called __ is not very affluent Himself. For, the vast properties the temple had under its disposal are lying encroached. The same can be said about Lord Lingaraj. In fact, huge landed properties that the deities and mutts of the State possessed have been grabbed by encroachers over the years with very little left for the Lords themselves.
While the Jagannath temple administration has initiated the process to recover the encroached land in Bhubaneswar and Jatni tehsils, the Government made it mandatory that endowment land cannot be sold without record of rights and permission of appropriate authority.
Meanwhile, Bhubaneswar-based Citizens’ Apex Association (CAA) has filed a writ petition before the Orissa High Court seeking setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe encroachment. The petition filed by CAA vice-president Asish Kumar Behera is slated for hearing in September.
The petition states that there are 20,000 temples and mutts in the State with huge movable and immovable properties, but a large portion is under encroachment by influential persons and land mafia. The Endowment Commissioner’s Office is meant to protect the properties, but has failed miserably.
CAA president N K Panda said even in the 1990s, Lord Jagannath owned as much as 25,711 acres, but is struggling to get any of it back from encroachers. Interestingly, the 25,711-acre land is registered in the name of Lord Jagannath in State Revenue records even now. When stock-taking of Lord Jagannath’s land was first made in 1975, it stood at a staggering 1,55,500 acres, but today it is much less.
Land grabbing, the CAA said, is at its peak in the State Capital, the seat of Lord Lingaraj. There were about 152 acres land in the name of Lord Lingaraj as per land settlement records of 1962. In the records, as much as 33.767-acre has been shown as encroachment by individuals and 4.795-acre has been wrongly recorded either in the name of individuals or Government departments, it added.
Panda claims that Government officials did not observe the necessary provisions of law while making inventory of the huge movable and immovable properties as a result of which condition of mutts and temple has deteriorated. A ploy of the Government has been to show such land as encroached and it is followed up by filing of a case which never ends.
The petition has requested the court to set up an SIT to get to the bottom of the issue and make an attempt to recover as much land as possible while identifying the guilty.