The controversy over the Puri Heritage Corridor project further intensified after Congress Legislature Party Leader Narasingha Mishra expressed concern over the “massive” construction close to the Shree Jagannath Temple. Mishra expressed concern over the project a day after BJP Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi questioned transparency in the entire work being carried out by the state government for making Puri an international heritage site.
The CLP leader, a member of the Odisha Assembly Committee formed to inspect the construction in the restricted zone of the 12th-century national monument, said this on Thursday after personally visiting the shrine and inspecting the works. He said there is utter confusion as the BJP MP has alleged that there is no permission from the Archaeological Survey of India for the work and an RTI activist also claimed that the state did not get required nod from the ASI.
The state government on the other hand claimed that no rule is violated in implementation of the project. Chief Secretary SC Mohapatra has made a public statement saying that the work is being done with "coordination" with the ASI.
Even as the state government claimed that it was constructing some toilets, cloakroom and other devotee amenities, Mishra said: "I found foundation has been laid for massive construction. Though I am not an expert, it appears that foundation work is made to raise five to ten storied building near the temple boundary wall, which is much within the prohibited zone and required ASI’s permission..."
Mishra said that no work can be done without permission of the ASI. The Congress leader also said that the House Committee formed for the corridor project to inspect the work, has not yet visited the place. "I heard Speaker saying that the House Committee was considering whether it can inspect the matter which is under sub-juidice of the high Court. As of my knowledge, there is no such restriction on the House Committee,” he said.
The Congress leader said his party was not opposed to development, but not such work which is being done by violating law of the land. Meanwhile, Puri BJP MLA Jayanta Sarangi said: “I support the issues raised by BJP MP. We want development. But it should be done as per the law.” “BJP has never opposed development works anywhere in the state. But we cannot support illegal work carried out by the government on the plea of people’s welfare,” Sarangi said, adding that construction near the temple without the ASI’s permission is illegal.
However, the ruling BJD countered the opposition remarks saying that the BJP and Congress were politicising the issue in the name of religion. BJD chief whip Pramila Mallick said the government has taken up the construction activities following discussion with experts. “The administration has been doing its work within the framework of law and regulations. There has been no violation of any law in the project work,” Mallick said, alleging that a BJP MP was opposing the project just to push her political career by playing with the sentiments of people. Meanwhile, Gajapati maharaja of Puri Dibyasingha Deb has clarified that the project will have no adverse impact on the temple’s structures.
(With PTI inputs)