Puri project row flares up as ASI stand gives BJP fresh ammo to fire at BJD

The tussle between the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the primary Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Puri Heritage Corridor Project has intensified following the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)’s fresh submission within the Orissa High Court that the continued undertaking paintings may have led to injury to the twelfth century Jagannath temple and that it was once being performed with out permission from competent government.

While the BJP has periodically centered the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD govt over the execution of the Puri undertaking, the stand taken via the central frame ASI within the top court docket has fuelled the row.

In its affidavit submitted within the top court docket on May 9, the ASI mentioned that the state govt was once enterprise the undertaking’s development paintings inside the prohibited and controlled spaces of the monument with out legitimate permission. The court docket is listening to a PIL in opposition to the undertaking, which has raised considerations over its affect at the Puri temple’s structural protection.

The ASI’s affidavit got here after it undertook a joint inspection of the undertaking website together with the state govt officers on May 1 in pursuance of the court docket’s order. The joint workforce created from ASI functionaries in addition to state govt officers just like the Puri collector and the Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation (OBCC) managing director.

In reaction to the ASI’s stand, Advocate General Ashok Kumar Parija instructed the department bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice R Okay Pattanaik {that a} no-objection certificates (NOC) was once granted to the undertaking via the Centre’s National Monuments Authority (NMA) on September 4, 2021. He additionally stated the state govt will record its respond to the ASI’s affidavit.

While posting the topic for subsequent listening to on June 22, the court docket requested the state govt to stay in view the ASI’s observations as and when it undertakes to any extent further undertaking paintings.

Seizing at the ASI’s stand, the BJP’s Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi introduced a recent assault at the Patnaik govt, tweeting that “After filing of ASI’s affidavit before the High Court, I am convinced that Lord Jagannath is trying to save himself and his temple from an elected state government which is hell bent upon brazenly defying the law”. She had additionally raked up the problem within the Lok Sabha in March this yr.

Speaking to The Indian Express, BJP nationwide spokesperson Sambit Patra, who had contested from the Puri constituency unsuccessfully within the 2019 parliamentary polls, known as the Patnaik govt’s transfer to push the undertaking an “assault on the Odia heritage”. “The state government carried out construction works without approval from competent authority. The Shree Jagannath temple is a heritage for Odias. If we destroy our archaeological remnants, who would be responsible for it,” he stated.

Patra additionally tweeted: “In Lok Sabha, Puri MP Pinaki Misra said that only 4 toilets are being constructed in the restricted zone of Jagannath temple. Pinaki Misra should apologise for this blatant lie.”

Hitting again, BJD chief Pinaki Misra stated, “Work has been underway with the NMA’s NOC. We have never talked about the ASI’s approval. Whatever is happening is within the purview of law. Reception counter would come up in regulated area with permission. And where is it written that DPR (detailed project report) cannot be revised?”

The Puri MP stated that “Sambit Patra or I cannot decide how much area should be dug out. Digging activity is carried out as per suggestions of civil engineers”, including that “if anyone is having any issues with that, they can go to the high court or Supreme Court”.

Puri temple, which is among the 4 dhams for Hindus within the nation, holds immense religious importance for the folks of Odisha. “The Puri temple is of utmost importance for the people of the state. If the temple is damaged for any reason, it will hurt all Odias. The ASI is equally responsible for remaining silent for so long,” stated Bijoy Mohapatra, a senior BJP chief who was once previously with the BJD.

One of the Patnaik govt’s maximum bold initiatives, the Puri Heritage Corridor Project, with an estimated price of Rs 3,200 crore, was once unveiled in December 2019 with the target to change into Puri into a global position of heritage. A answer in regards to the undertaking — which contains redeveloping primary parts of the holy the town and within the neighborhood of the temple for guests and vacationers — was once unanimously handed via the state Assembly in February 2020.

From the electoral standpoint, the Puri parliamentary constituency, a conventional BJD stronghold, is similarly a very powerful for the saffron celebration. Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the state BJP had suggested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contest from the seat. The celebration had in any case fielded Patra, who misplaced the election to Misra with a margin of about 11,000 votes.

The Puri heritage undertaking is among the many temple redevelopment initiatives introduced in Odisha following the 2019 Assembly polls, when the BJP outstripped the Congress to develop into the principle Opposition. Some of the temples which can be present process or have passed through renovation come with Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar, Samaleswari temple in Sambalpur, Bariprada temple, Maa Tarini temple in Ghatgaon, Konark Heritage Corridor, Maa Bhadrakali temple in Bhadrak, Akhandalamani temple in Aradi, Tara Tarini temple in Ganjam, Baldevjew temple in Keonjhar, and Sri Gupteswar temple in Koraput.

These redevelopment initiatives have been stated to were rolled out as a part of the BJD’s technique to counter the BJP’s upward thrust within the state, that have additionally confronted obstruction from the BJP-ruled Centre. In April this yr, the Centre instructed the Odisha govt that its ordinance to convey the Eleventh-century ASI-protected Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar and its related temples underneath a unique legislation was once outdoor the legislative competence of the state Assembly. It instructed the BJD govt that the ordinance was once in battle with the principles laid down underneath the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958. The particular legislation was once supposed to facilitate the state govt’s building plan for Lingaraj temple and its peripheral space. The 66-acre “Ekamra Kshetra” building plan was once introduced to keep the heritage and building of the 9 websites and their close by spaces at a value of round Rs 700 crore. The BJD govt would now convey an modification to the regulation.

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