Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come down heavily on the Odisha government after the later promulgated Section 16 (2) of the Jagannath Temple Amendment Act 1954 by using the legislative powers of the Governor without waiting for the next Assembly session.

Raising suspicion over the haste in making the ordinance a law, the BJP termed it as a ploy to influence the voters before the upcoming Panchayat polls.

Puri MLA, Jayant Sarangi said, “This is not a small issue. There are long legal hurdles that have to be cleared before thousands of people can finally get the settlement of Lord Jagannath’s land. They should have brought the bill to the Assembly and discussed it in the House.”

“The way they made the Governor hastily promulgate the ordinance only points fingers at their intent. It has been done to influence the voters in the Panchayat elections,” Sarangi alleged.

Similarly, social worker, Dilip Baral said, “There is no immediate necessity to ease the selling of Lord Jagannath’s lands. The treasury of the SJTA is already filled to the brim with crores of Rupees. This is not an issue that warranted such kind of urgency. It could have waited till the next Assembly session.”

Baral alleged that the BJD leaders and top officials had conspired with the land and the mining mafia to sell Lord Jagannath’s land cheaply.

The Odisha Cabinet on January 5 this year approved amendments to the Sri Jagannath Temple Act 1954, paving way for the immediate settlement of Jagannath land-related issues.

Earlier, people who had occupied or were in possession of the temple land for long had approached the State government for the sale or transfer of the land.

Prior to that, the Supreme Court had ordered the State government to record all the 60,426 acres of Lord Jagannath’s land, either occupied or in possession of different people for decades in Odisha's 24 districts. But the government could only register 35,000 acres of land.

A uniform policy (2003) was brought in to facilitate the settlement of land to eligible people. From 2001 to 2010, 291 acres had been settled; 96 acres were settled between 2011 and 2021.