Vikash Sharma

Puri: BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra on Saturday termed the move of Puri district administration to handover land of century-old Bagala Dharamashala to private hoteliers as ‘illegal.’

Patra, who arrived in Odisha today on a one-day visit, will hold discussion with intellectuals, elected representatives, and visit the spot in Puri today. He will later hold a press conference in the afternoon.

“A devotee Kanheya Lal had donated the land of Bagala Dharmashala in 1905 to cater to the needs of pilgrims and economically-backward devotees, but it is now being sold illegally by the Odisha govt and the district administration,” said Patra.

Earlier, the decision of Puri district administration to sell the land of century-old Bagala Dharamashala to six private hoteliers triggered massive protests by social activists and BJP on Friday.

Alleging that the interests of devotees of Lord Jagannath and tourists have been overlooked, BJP leaders staged a demonstration and condemned such move of the administration.

Social activist Jagannath Bastia, who had earlier filed a PIL, has filed a Misc. application in Orissa High Court praying for status quo on the said land.

It is pertinent to mention here that the administration had earlier demolished a part of the dharamashala citing the need for renovation.

The business owners and hoteliers, who were evicted under the Srimandir beautification project, were asked to choose one-time monetary settlement or a plot of land. And the beneficiaries, who chose the latter, were provided land at the Bagala Dharmashala as per the government’s policy of rehabilitating them within 300 meter radius along the Grand Road.

Puri MLA Jayant Sarangi of the BJP and his supporters launched an agitation demanding cancellation of the sale deeds.

“The Shree Jagannath Bishram Sthali project under PRASAD scheme has been arbitrarily shelved and we condemn the move of administration to hand over land of the Dharmashala to six persons,” said Sarangi.

Puri Youth Lawyers’ Association member also staged a demonstration in front of Puri Collectorate.

“It is unfortunate that the Puri Collector failed to understand what importance Bagala Dharmashala holds in the hearts of devotees. We want immediate rollback of the decision and transfer of land,” said Srikant Parija, Puri District Lawyers’ Forum.

Social activist, Jagannath Bastia stated that the decision of Puri Collector to sell the land of the Dharmashala which was earlier donated by a devotee in 1905 is completely illegal.

“At a time when scores of people,who have lost their land and livelihood due to eviction, are yet to be rehabilitated, the administration has keen to rehabilitate businessmen by selling them plots. I have filed a case in High Court seeking a status quo till the matter is disposed off,” said Bastia.

Former Puri MLA Maheswar Mohanty had earlier stated that the administration should reconsider its decision.

Earlier on Wednesday, Additional Collector of Puri, Vinay Kumar Das had clarified that, “The allegations that the district Collector has sold the land to other parties are completely baseless. All the steps have been taken as per existing Government guidelines.”