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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 principal Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Puri Heritage Corridor Project has intensified following the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)’s current submission within the Orissa High Court that the continuing challenge work might need precipitated injury to the twelfth century Jagannath temple and that it was being carried out with out permission from competent authorities.

While the BJP has periodically focused the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD authorities over the execution of the Puri challenge, the stand taken by the central physique ASI within the excessive courtroom has fuelled the row.

In its affidavit submitted within the excessive courtroom on May 9, the ASI acknowledged that the state authorities was endeavor the challenge’s building work throughout the prohibited and controlled areas of the monument with out legitimate permission. The courtroom is listening to a PIL towards the challenge, which has raised issues over its affect on the Puri temple’s structural security.

The ASI’s affidavit got here after it undertook a joint inspection of the challenge web site together with the state authorities officers on May 1 in pursuance of the courtroom’s order. The joint group comprised of ASI functionaries in addition to state authorities officers just like the Puri collector and the Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation (OBCC) managing director.

In response to the ASI’s stand, Advocate General Ashok Kumar Parija instructed the division bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice R Okay Pattanaik {that a} no-objection certificates (NOC) was granted to the challenge by the Centre’s National Monuments Authority (NMA) on September 4, 2021. He additionally stated the state authorities will file its reply to the ASI’s affidavit.

While posting the matter for subsequent listening to on June 22, the courtroom requested the state authorities to maintain in view the ASI’s observations as and when it undertakes any additional challenge work.

Seizing on the ASI’s stand, the BJP’s Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi launched a recent assault on the Patnaik authorities, 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 difficulty 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, referred to as the Patnaik authorities’s transfer to push the challenge 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 non secular significance for the individuals 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 previously with the BJD.

One of the Patnaik authorities’s most bold tasks, the Puri Heritage Corridor Project, with an estimated price of Rs 3,200 crore, was unveiled in December 2019 with the target to rework Puri into a global place of heritage. A decision concerning the challenge — which incorporates redeveloping main parts of the holy city and within the neighborhood of the temple for guests and vacationers — was unanimously handed by the state Assembly in February 2020.

From the electoral perspective, the Puri parliamentary constituency, a standard BJD stronghold, is equally essential for the saffron celebration. Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the state BJP had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contest from the seat. The celebration had lastly fielded Patra, who misplaced the election to Misra with a margin of about 11,000 votes.

The Puri heritage challenge is among the many temple redevelopment tasks launched in Odisha following the 2019 Assembly polls, when the BJP outstripped the Congress to develop into the principle Opposition. Some of the temples which are present process or have undergone renovation embrace 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 tasks have been stated to have been rolled out as a part of the BJD’s technique to counter the BJP’s rise within the state, which have additionally confronted obstruction from the BJP-ruled Centre. In April this yr, the Centre instructed the Odisha authorities that its ordinance to carry the Eleventh-century ASI-protected Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar and its related temples beneath a particular regulation was outdoors the legislative competence of the state Assembly. It instructed the BJD authorities that the ordinance was in battle with the principles laid down beneath the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958. The particular regulation was meant to facilitate the state authorities’s improvement plan for Lingaraj temple and its peripheral space. The 66-acre “Ekamra Kshetra” improvement plan was launched to protect the heritage and improvement of the 9 websites and their close by areas at a price of round Rs 700 crore. The BJD authorities would now carry an modification to the laws.

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