Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

With each passing day, the issue of alleged breach in rules during construction of Puri Srimandir Heritage Corridor continues to gather more steam of resentment among the members of Jagannath Sena, servitors and public representatives.

As per reports, construction works for the heritage corridor and beautification around the Jagannath Temple is in full swing. Land has been excavated in several locations and concrete structures are being erected under the flagship project. On the western side of the 12th century shrine, electrical rooms, shelter rooms and toilets are being created. However, questions have been raised on why such structural constructions are being carried out in close proximity of the Jagannath Temple. 

Jagannath Sena, a local rights outfit has blamed the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and the Odisha government for violation of the rules laid by the National Monument Authority (NMA) for preservation and protection of monuments and AMASR Act 20A. 

The body quotes the rules of the NMA which says that no construction works can be carried out within 100 meters of any preserved monument of national importance. However, the State government is carrying out varied construction works within 75 meters of Srimandir without any permission from the Archaeological Survey Of India (ASI) and NMA.

Recently, the ASI Director General who visited to analyze the project work progress remained mum on the issue which stoked further concerns among the protesters. 

The construction company engaged for different construction works near the Srimandir generally is involved in constructing bridges, erecting buildings, etc. However, temples are constructed by sculptors and not engineers, says the Jagannath Sena.

The rights outfit has also warned the Odisha government to take up the issue with the Supreme Court of India.

Priyadarshi Pattnaik, Jagannath Sena Convenor claimed that the construction workers are using vibrator machines to dig deep at different places around the temple for foundation purposes which can create dangers for the temple's structure. 

He has warned that once realisation of the grave danger posed to the temple dawns, the government will face consequences. "We will move the Supreme Court and gherao office of ASI DG in Delhi if the construction works are not halted immediately," said Pattnaik.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid the foundation stone for the historic project on November 24 after eviction from across 75 meters of land all around the shrine. Tender of Rs 331.28 crore has been sanctioned for the project and Tata Projects is carrying out the construction works under Odisha Bridge Construction Corporation (OBCC). 

Meanwhile, Puri MLA Jayanta Sarangi said, "The construction works are being done without consultation of Central government. If they are working with the central government's permits, they should produce the same. We welcome the development projects, and this mustn't get halted at this stage of work. But, I urge, they should work as per the rules."

While the response of SJTA over the matter is yet to be obtained, the Superintendent of OBCC has said, only toilets are being constructed and no other building works have been carried out. 

On the other hand, Srimandir Management Committee member, Ananta Tiadi said, "All the construction works carried out meet the standards. Moreover, there were several buildings earlier at the construction sites. The development works are being done for development of Srimandir and the devotees."