The Odisha cabinet has approved amendments to the Shree Jagannath Temple Act, 1954 to simplify the procedure relating to the sale and transfer of land and immovable property belonging to Lord Jagannath.
Though the servitors of the temple enjoyed occupational rights on these plots of land for centuries, neither were they able to sell them during emergency nor get the land right status. They needed to approach the state government for approval for sale, lease and transfer of immovable property and land belonging to the temple, making the process cumbersome and time-consuming.
With this amendment, the state government has decentralised the process and delegated powers to officials at different levels in Puri district, chief administrator of the temple administration, working president and other officials to facilitate speedy disposal of cases relating to the alienation of immovable property and land.
Describing the decision as historic, state law minister Pratap Kumar Jena said: “The chief minister has given its nod to the amendment at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The amendment will allow lease, transfer and sale of the temple land. Those residing in the temple will be able to get patta.
“All the proposals in this regard will come to the law department for approval. Now they need not approach the state government for getting approval for selling, leasing or mortgaging their land. They can approach the temple managing committee, temple administration and collectors who can take a decision on the land status.”
Chief secretary Suresh Kumar Mohapatra said: “Thousands of applications under the uniform policy introduced in 2003 for registration of the land in Puri and Khurda district had been pending with the state government.
“With the simplification of the procedure and decentralisation process, the land right to the people will be given within a short time. The temple administration will also earn from it.”
According to the process, the servitors can pay a nominal fee to the Shree Jagannath Temple Management Committee and record the land where they have been residing for over 40 years.
Meanwhile, the state government has initiated the process to sell over 35,000 acres of land belonging to Lord Jagannath. It has been part of the process to sell the land to enhance the Rs 600-crore fund of the Jagannath temple to Rs 1,000 crore by 2023.
“The process to sell the land had been formulated on the recommendation of a committee formed under the chairmanship of former governor B.D. Sharma. Only with the approval of the Shree Jagannath Temple Management Administration (SJTA), Odisha government has taken the steps to sell 35,272.235 acres of the temple,” official said,
The official maintained: “The state government has so far detected 60,426.943 acres of land belonging to the Shree Jagannath. Out of this, 34,876.983 acres of land has already been recorded in the name of Lord Jagannath temple. Out of this, 395. 252 acres of land is located outside the state in Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh Steps are being taken to recover the land and regularise the land records.”
According to Shree Jagannath temple officials, many devotees had left their land in the name of the lord as a last wish. But over the years, people have encroached upon the land. While the land has been spread over the 24 districts, 395.252 acres have been found in six other states of the country.
According to official records of the temple, 17.02 acres in the name of the lord is located in Andhra Pradesh, 322.93 acres in Bengal, 28.218 acres in Maharashtra, 25.11 acres in Madhya Pradesh, 0.274 acre in Bihar and 1.70 acre in Chhattisgarh.
“We are in touch with the respective district collectors to get back those land. The land would be sold and money earned from them would be fixed in the lord’s name. We have planned to reach Rs 1,000 crore target by 2023,” a senior temple official said.