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Plot claim shocker for ASI

Bhubaneswar, July 6: Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials have expressed shock over leasing out of plots by the state government’s general administration department to individuals between Parsurameswar and Mukteswar temples in Old Town. These plots are supposed to be in the ASI’s custody.

Superintending archaeologist of the Bhubaneswar circle Bhuvan Vikrama said a woman from Gautam Nagar of Bhubaneswar has filed a petition with the local ASI office claiming ownership of a plot measuring 88 decimals of the 2.35 hectares of the lawn being maintained by the conservation authority between the Parasurameswar and Mukteswar temples.

He said the ASI now feared that more such claimants might come forward.

The ASI preserves the 8th century Parsurameswar and 10th century Mukteswar are two prominent temples along the Kedar Gouri Lane in Old Town. It also maintains the lawn with flowering plants between the two shrines.

In 1961, the patch of land on which the lawn has come up was given to the ASI by the state government. The government, however, continues to retain ownership of the 2.35 hectares.

Vikrama said under the provisions of Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010, any construction within 100 metres of a protected monument was prohibited.

Hence, the general administration department was not authorised to allot any land within the “protected” area of the monument to anyone.

“We are taking care of several patches of government land close to our monuments across the country. It is clear under the laws that no construction can take place on such land. No government agency can, thus, allot a plot near the monuments,” he told The Telegraph.

The ASI officials had already raised the issue of illegal allotment of plots within the “protected” area with the general administration department.

“Senior officials of the general administration department have assured us of action, but so far nothing has happened,” an ASI official said.

The land rights records dating back to June 18, 1945, available with the ASI circle office here reveal that all the land in and around Parsurameswar and Mukteswar temples belonged to the trust owned by the administration of the 11th century Lingaraj temple that stands nearby and happens to be one of the biggest and most respected shrines in the state.

Hence, the ASI authorities appear in a spot as plots in the area have been allotted to private individuals.

A land record keeper in the general administration department, on condition of anonymity, said: “There were instances in which revenue inspectors had marked the land under general category without making a physical verification. This could be one of such cases.”

Officer on special duty (land) with the department Bhagaban Behera said: “If the lawn was under occupation of the ASI, their officials can approach us with all the documents to facilitate initiation of an inquiry.”

Director of estates and additional secretary in the general administration department Prasanta Kumar Senapati said: “The ASI authorities should check the authenticity of claims made by the people about being allotted land in the area of the lawn between Parsurameswar and Mukteswar temples. After that they can approach us with the relevant documents since the law is clear that no one can use land lying near a protected monument for construction.”