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Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

While the row over alleged breach in rules during construction of Puri Srimandir Heritage Corridor is intensifying with each passing day, the Superintendent Archaeologist of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Wednesday made it clear that the government agency has not released any NOC (No Objection Certificate) to the Odisha government allowing construction works within 100 meter perimeter of the shrine. 

As per reports, the district collector of Puri, Samarth Verma on March 7 had clarified that the construction works are being carried out with prior approval of the National Monuments Authority (NMA) and with the help of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Verma also had said that to ensure convenience of the devotees, public toilets and drinking water KIOSKs are being constructed in the first phase around Srimandir. The statement came at a time when questions were raised over the construction activities within 100 meters of Srimandir and prior approval for the same by ASI and NMA.

Following the ASI Director General’s visit to analyze the progress of project works, a report has been sent to the State government and the works will be carried out as per the report. As per rules, construction works including public toilets, drinking water KIOSK, drainage system and electrification is allowed within 100 meters of the shrine. However, NMA’s permit is crucial for all construction works even beyond 100 meters.   

Meanwhile, Arun Mallick, Superintendent Archaeologist of the ASI, Odisha today clarified that the Archaeological body hasn’t released any NOC for construction within 100 meters of Srimandir. 

“As per AMASR Act of 1958 and 2010’s Validation Amendment Act of Ancient Monuments, no new construction is allowed within the protected area of 100 meters excluding repairing and renovation works of the existing structures. Apart from that, construction works is allowed beyond 100 meters within 200 meters with due permission from the competent authority of NMA and after obtaining the NOC for the same. But, the ASI hasn’t issued any such permits,” said Mallick.

On the other hand, resentment among locals and rights outfits continues to brew over the construction works as they suspect that the excavation works in the proximity of Srimandir is posing a threat to the 12th century shrine.

“Clarification is quintessential over ASI and NMA permits for construction. Moreover, Puri Konark Development Authority (PKDA) has banned construction works within 100 meters of Srimandir and is not issuing any plan. It is hard to understand, how all these construction works are being carried out now,” said Chakradhar Mohapatra, an intellectual from Puri.  

“Everyone is confused as of now over the construction works. While ASI is saying one thing, the district administration is saying something else. Uncertainty is looming over the mega project. We are informed that public toilets, drinking water KIOSKs, rest sheds and passageways for devotees are being constructed. However, the excavation done in different locations should not pose a threat to the shrine and everyone should ensure that,” said Binayak Dasmohapatra, Senior Servitor. 

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