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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: At a time when Odisha government has been requesting the Centre to withdraw the National Monuments Authority (NMA) draft bylaws for the Ekamra Kshetra temples, contrasting reports have emerged wherein a notification issued by Union Ministry of Culture mentions specifying an authorised officer in Odisha way back in 2014 to be a part of the draft bylaws preparation.

In the State of Odisha, the authorised officer is the Director (Culture), Department of Tourism & Culture, Government of Odisha, Bhubaneswar, the notification issued by the Ministry of Culture (ASI) dated February 24, 2014 states.

"In exercise of the powers conferred by the proviso to clause (db) of Section 2 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (24 of 1958) and in supersession of the notification of the Central Government in the Ministry of Culture (ASI) dated October 24, 2013, published in Gazette of India on February 24, 2013, except as respects things done or omitted to be done before such supersession, the Central government specifies officers (along with the area of jurisdiction) not below the rank of Director of Archaeology or Commissioner of Archaeology of the respective State government and UTs as the competent authorities for the purpose of Sections 20C and 20D of the said Act," the notification says.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi said there are 3693 ASI protected monuments in the country including 80 in Odisha and all of these 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).

READ | MP Aparajita Breaks Silence, Slams Odisha Govt Over Ekamra Kshetra Bylaws

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.

As per the Act of 1958 and amendment in 2010, every monument has 100 mt of the prohibited area and 200 mt of the regulated area. There are several sections which talk about the grant of permission by the Competent Authority for carrying out construction, repair and renovation work in prohibited and regulated areas, the Parliamentarian said and further questioned: "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. How is it possible that the State government was not aware of the same?"

"After careful study, analysis & discussion with relevant people, I put forth all the facts and figures pertaining to the Parliament Act of 1958 and heritage bye-laws. Governance is a serious matter. It requires maturity," the MP tweeted.

Meanwhile, members of four Nijogs of Lingaraj Temple said that the comments made by Bhubaneswar MP are like rubbing salt on the wounds. The by-laws are an outcome of the difference of opinion of the BJP and the BJD, and the shrine matters are being politicised. If the government doesn't roll back the draft regulations with immediate effect, it may have an impact on the upcoming Shiv Ratri rituals, the Nijogs have warned.

"After reaching the airport, she (Aparajita) went directly to attend the press conference instead of meeting the servitors here. Did the servitors not cast vote for her? Why didn't she come to have a discussion with the servitors?" Biranchi Pati, Secretary of Brahmana Nijog said.

Speaking on the matter, the State Minister for Social Security & Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ashok Chandra Panda said that the Bhubaneswar MP is misleading people and 'blaming a government employee who has done nothing'.

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