Pradeep Pattanayak

Four days after the State cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, approved a proposal for effecting amendments to the Sri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954 for easy and simplified settlement of landed properties in favour of those who have occupied them for decades, the heads (Mahants) of various Mutts in Puri town submitted a memorandum to the CM on Monday demanding maintenance of status quo of the lands belonging to the Mutts.

The Mahants submitted a memorandum, which has been addressed to the CM, before the district Collector in this regard. 
Welcoming the government’s move to dispose of Sri Jagannath Temple’s landed properties occupied by people through the Uniform Policy; the Mahants urged the State government to exclude the Mutts from 10 decimal limitation of land rule. 

In the memorandum, they said that the heads of different Mutts have preserved their lands for several decades and they still possess the properties. These properties including the ‘bije sthalis’(establishment area) are of institutional type and charitable in nature. Most of the Mutts have areas admeasuring more than 10 decimals. 
Dr Bijay Ramanuja of Kataki Mutt, Puri, said the Uniform Policy has mentioned about land belonging to common people while it is silent on Mutts. “We urge the government to hand over the Mutt lands either to them (Mutts) in return of money or to charitable trusts without taking any money,” Ramanuja added. 

“The State government has conferred the power upon the district Collector to settle the problems relating Sri Jaggannath’s landed properties under the possession of people. It is a good step. We request the government to register the entire areas of Mutts in their respective names,” observed another Mahant of a Mutt. 

Terming the decision as historic, Law Minister Pratap Jena had earlier stated, “The State Cabinet has delegated powers to the temple administration and concerned officials for sale and lease of land in the name of Lord Jagannath. Henceforth, approval of the State government is not required for the sale and lease of the lands.”

“The land settlement process has been simplified. The temple managing committee, administrative officials and Collectors of respective districts could take decisions in this regard from now onwards. Thousands of families across the State had applied for the settlement of these lands. The latest decision by the Cabinet will be helpful for them,” Jena had added.