Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: In party-led governments, policies are always guided by politics. And the Naveen-led Government's newest 'ABADHA' (Augmentation of Basic Amenities & Development of Heritage & Architecture) scheme for Puri, coined after Centre's HRIDAY (National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana), smells politics at the core.

Significantly, Naveen's ABADHA offer for Puri development came in 2017-18 budget post the inclusion of Puri under HRIDAY by the Modi-led Government in  2015-16.  The big reminder here is the ABADHA then had a total outlay of Rs 100 crore.

Post the 2019 general election, when the ruling BJD has lost the MLA of Puri to BJP (where veteran Maheswar Mohanty lost to Jayant Sarangi) and won the MP seat with a wafer thin margin, the Naveen government in August announced a mega scheme under the ABADHA with a massive outlay of   Rs 265 crore.

And the details of the rebooted Rs 265 crore ABADHA  scheme bears a stark resemblance with PM Modi's ambitious Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project (KVCP).

During the 2019 elections the BJP had promised big on Puri.  The new ABADHA is, therefore, cooked by the Naveen government government to pre-empt the Saffron party's 2024 poll menu, when the BJP has set its eyes clearly on the Puri LS seat.

How the ABADHA 2.0 hosts similarities with KVCP?  ABADHA goes for razing structures around a 75 metre radius of the 12th century Jagannath temple, and the KVCP has also cleared the structures around 45,000 square metre of the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

But the motives of both the projects are seemingly different. While Modi's KVCP is meant to revive the ancient 'Panchkosi Parikrama', Naveen's ABADHA scheme is  for 'security' of the 12th century architecture.

Moreover, when the KVCP has first acquired 296 properties post paying the private owners prices nearly twice the current market value, for ABADHA, the government announced a compensation only yesterday, when widespread resentment over the demolition drive had already soared.

While  the KVCP cleared ancient temples from the clutches of encroachers, the move of ABADHA to raze to ground some historical mutts stirred the protest pot the most in the temple town.

It is noteworthy to mention when the State government is demanding inclusion of Puri in the list of heritage cities, the grounding of heritage structures like mutts seems not in sync with norms that qualify a city to be tagged a heritage city.

The move by KVCP of reviving the hoary 'Panchkoshi Parikrama' may earn it a place in the coveted heritage city list, but ABADHA's bulldozing of heritage buildings may rob the State's claim.

Experts at the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) here are of the view that protecting heritage buildings like mutts could have given the 'Incredible Odisha' campaign a boost. The State could have drawn hordes of heritage tourists from the offshore countries. And it seems the lack of foresight has done an  irreversible damage.