Odishatv Bureau

Puri: Resentment is brewing among residents of Puri over district administration’s decision to allot Bagala Dharmashala land to hoteliers and private parties evicted under the ambitious heritage corridor project of the Odisha government.

The shocking allegations came after Odisha Bridge Construction Corporation (OBCC) recently submitted a ‘layout plan’ of Bagala Dharmashala complex to Puri Konark Development Authority (PKDA).

It is pertinent to mention here that citing it to be unsafe, the Bagala Dharmashala, which is perhaps the only facility that provides services to economically backward devotees to perform religious services, was demolished a few years back.

It was announced that a new building will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 21 crore at the site. The funds for the project were also allocated from the Union Government’s Prasad Yojana.

“The dharmashala was set up to accommodate 10,000 devotees. Administration is conspiring to handover its land to hoteliers,” said advocate, Premanand Mohanty.

However, as per the new layout, 28 plots have been earmarked and there are plans to allot them to hoteliers and lodge owners who were evicted from other parts of the city.

Bagala Dharmashala was established by Seth Kanheyalal some 70 years back. Though Kanheyalal had only entrusted the district administration with the management of the Dharamshala, it is alleged that there has been a conspiracy to change the ownership of the land as well.

It is being alleged that the ownership of the land of Bagala Dharmashala which was initially under Bihar and Orissa Pilgrimage Act was changed to Municipality and later transferred to the Revenue Department of Odisha government.

Meanwhile, Puri residents are now gearing up to move the Orissa High Court against such change and transfer of ownership of the particular land.

“The land was neither sold nor donated; only its management was transferred to the government. The dharmashala was demolished and funds were allotted for a new facility for 5,000 devotees, but now there are plans to give the land to private parties” said local resident, Ramesh Prasad Singh.

Social activist, Jagannath Bastia said, “We oppose the administration’s move as the Bagala Dharmashala is the only facility which provides affordable lodging at nominal cost.”

However, Puri Collector Balwant Singh said that such plans have been made to rehabilitate those who were evicted from near Srimandir.
“Our focus is rehabilitating those who have been evicted for the security corridor project and steps are being taken for rehabilitation of devotees and tourists,” said Singh.