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Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: After facing criticism, Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi on Monday broke her silence and targeted Odisha government on the issue of the draft NMA heritage bylaws for Ekamra Kshetra.

Addressing a presser here on Monday, Sarangi termed the allegations that Odisha government’s suggestions were not taken over the bylaws as false and baseless.

According to Sarangi, there are 3693 ASI protected monuments in the country including 80 in Odisha. These monuments are protected under ‘The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act,1958. It was subsequently amended in 2010 which later came up as ‘The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act (AMSAR Act).

As per the Act of 1958 and amendment in 2010, every monument has 100 mts of prohibited area and 200 mts of regulated area. There are several sections which talk about grant of permission by the Competent Authority for carrying out construction, repair and renovation work in prohibited and regulated areas.

The competent authority, under the Act in this case is Director, Culture, Government of Odisha as notified by the National Monument Authority (NMA) constituted under section 20 F of the Act.

“How could Odisha government say that it was not aware of the draft bylaws when it was sent through the Director, Culture? The Director of Culture is the competent authority here in Odisha, who is a State government employee and part of the draft bylaws preparation. Then how it is possible that the State govt was not aware of the same,” questioned Sarangi.

The Bhubaneswar MP alleged that the BJD leaders have been repeatedly misleading the people of Odisha by claiming that the publication of the bylaws will hinder developmental works surrounding the temples.

According to Sarangi, the restriction of 100 mts as prohibited area and next 200 mts as regulated area from the perimeter of a notified monument has been there in the Act of 1958 and in AMSAR Act amended in 2010.

Irrespective of the bylaws, the restriction relating to taking up any new construction with 100 mts of prohibited areas is applicable to an ASI notified monument and will apply to Puri temple, Lingaraj temple, Bramheswar, Ananta Basudev temple or any other notified monuments, she said.

“The essential features of the Act of 1958 cannot be ignored. They have to be followed. Bylaw (withdrawal or implementation) do not make any difference to essential component of the Act which, in different forms, is getting enforced since 2004,” the Bhubaneswar MP said.

Sarangi further posed five questions for Odisha government:

1. Why was ASI not involved at the stage of carrying out demolition around important monuments filled with heritage structure? Why the government did not responded to 9 letters ASI letters and show-cause notices?

2. The DG ASI had met the senior officials of the State government in December 2019 and requested to share the architectural plan and detailed project report so that NMA could consider issuance of No Objection Certificate. Till date, State government has not submitted final development plan surrounding Puri temple and Lingaraj temple with the people of Odisha.

3. Why is the State government raising a hue and cry about the draft bylaws of NMA without giving its suggestions and objections to such draft publication which has provided 30 days notice period for such objections?

4. Will the State government clarify which architectural firms have been engaged to draw up plans for extremely important heritage structures like Puri Jagannath temple and Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar?

5. Will the government clarify whether a detailed mapping of important heritage structures like-Uttar Parshwa Matha, Dakshin Parshwa Matha, Emar Matha and Raghunandan library were done before razing them to ground?

Meanwhile, members of four nijogs of Lingaraj Temple targetted the Bhubaneswar MP and said that her comments are like rubbing salt on the wounds.

"We will not let her enter Ekamra Kshetra," the nijog members said.

The State government or the BJD leaders are yet to comment on the allegations levelled by the Bhubaneswar MP.

Also Read: Withdraw NMA Heritage Bylaws For 2 More Bhubaneswar Temples; Odisha To Centre

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