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State Rejects Srimandir Threat

Puri: Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra has emphasized that the State Government is undertaking the Puri Heritage Corridor Project Construction works in coordination with Archeological Survey of India(ASI).

 He asserted that “There is no threat to the structural safety of the temple. The project is essential as lakhs of devotees visit the place every year and face difficulties. Many local people have donated their land for their project”.

Chief Secretary was responding to BJP MP Aparajita Sarangi’s allegation that Odisha Government has continued with the construction work in prohibited areas near Shree Jagannath Temple despite the letter to stop work issued by ASI.

Aparajita Sarangi demanded immediate stop of work as it violates the norms under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1959.

She tweeted on Monday, “Archaeological Survey of India has issued a letter to the concerned authorities of Puri for stopping work in the Prohibited area (100 metres) of Jagannath Temple, Puri. But work has not stopped by the State Govt till now. Illegal this is! Isn’t it time for all of us to SAVE OUR TEMPLE?”

She also attached ASI’s letter dated February 5, 2022 in her tweet. The letter said that its staff posted at the spot had said the state government is carrying out construction work near the temple which falls under its prohibited area.

Areas up to 100 m of a protected monument fall under prohibited areas where any type of excavation and construction is totally prohibited. Areas up to 200 m beyond that fall under the regulated area category and any construction in the area requires permission from the competent authority.

The letter also asked the authorities if any permission had been taken to undertake construction in the prohibited area and if it had been taken, then it should produce its permission before ASI.

The ASI also warned the authorities concerned to stop work immediately and that it would be forced to issue notice.

Puri MP Pinaki Mishra (BJD) has also rejected Ms.Sarangi’s contention and claimed that no law was violated while implementing the Puri Heritage Corridor Project. Mr.Mishra showed a letter from the National Monument Authority (NMA) to justify his claim.

 Mr.Mishra said that the NMA in its September 4, 2021 letter had allowed construction of a cloakroom, shelter pavilion and toilets within the prohibited zone of Jagannath Temple.

A resolution was passed in the Odisha Legislative Assembly in February, 2020 supporting the Puri Heritage Corridor Project which aims to transform the abode of Lord Jagannath into an international heritage centre.

Meanwhile, BJP Veteran, Bijay Mohapatra targeted ASI and NMA over the alleged violation of the laws in the Puri Heritage Corridor project.

“Being expert authorities, it is ASI’s and NMA’s responsibility to ensure that the Heritage Corridor Project does not violate safety norms and endanger the 12th century shrine. Why are two national bodies silent on the issue and are not sending teams for site inspection,” Mr.Mahapatra told Media.

Mr.Mohapatra also urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to call an urgent review meeting to discuss the issues and ensure that the ASI and NMA send teams to inspect the Heritage Corridor Project work with immediate effect.