Updated: February 9, 2021 1:56:52 am
Union Minister of Culture and Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel on Monday announced the withdrawal of draft heritage bylaws for development around the Jagannath temple in Puri. The announcement was made after delegations of BJP and the ruling BJD separately met Patel in Delhi, demanding the withdrawal.
After the bylaws were notified on January 18 by the National Monument Authority (NMA), the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) on Sunday had asked NMA to withdraw the draft — which prohibits any kind of construction within a 100 metre radius of the temple and its subsidiary shrines.
“No construction or re-construction of any building, within a radius of 100 metres, or such other higher distance from any archaeological site, as may be decided by the Archaeological Survey of India and Orissa State Archaeology Department from time to time, from the outer boundary of a declared protected monument shall be permitted,” the draft stated.
The draft had also evoked strong opposition from the ruling BJD as it would have limited the ambitious plans for beautification around the 12th century shrine. The state has so far sanctioned Rs 3,200 crore for upliftment and development of the town.
On Monday morning, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had also visited the temple — his first visit after the pandemic — and had toughened his stand saying, “Nobody can stop the good work of Lord Jagannath. The Central government must remove these new bylaws.” He added that the sacrifices of the people who donated their lands for the town’s development will not go in vain.
The BJP’s MPs from the state also wrote to Union Minister Patel emphasising that “any legislation affecting these religious places have a massive bearing on the mass sentiment.”
“The said draft by-laws may have an enormous bearing on the affairs and administration of the Shree Jagannath temple as well as drastically affect the day-to-day lives of thousands of sevayats and priests of the temple and millions of pilgrims visiting the holy shrine,” the letter said.
Heritage experts however decried the withdrawal.
Project coordinator for Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Odisha, Anil Dhir said certain relaxations could have been made instead of retracting the law.
“I agree that Puri temple is unique and a lot of activities of the temple are not confined within the temple, like the rath yatra, so certain allowances may be made. But they can not take back the law… The laws already exist under the AMSAR Act regarding construction around heritage sites,” Dhir said.
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