After having fenced over 4,500 cemeteries across the state, the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar is all set to fence temples from January 2016 onwards. Reason: Preventing theft of statues and encroachments and usurping of land.
Though there are 4,000 temples registered with Bihar State Religious Trust, only a temple or a mutt that is at least 60 years old with its own land would be eligible for the scheme.
After the state Cabinet gave its nod to the proposal, considered by some as a political masterstroke by the chief minister, the law department recently passed a resolution and laid down procedures for fencing of temples under the Bihar Temple Construction Fund Scheme 2015.
Though there would be devoted fund allotment for the scheme in the coming financial year, the project would get underway immediately with a first instalment of Rs 10 crore. The religious trust council has invited applications from registered temples to avail the scheme. The only eligibility for the temples would be that they should have valuable statues, crowns and other such objects and its own land.
The state government is also looking at increasing tourism potential with the scheme, which also takes into account thefts of over 200 statues in the last decade.
The law department resolution says, “At district level, a two-level committee under the district magistrate and the SP as the other member would select the eligible temples (based on proposals from the trust council). The district committee will have to revert to the religious trust council in 15 days after inspection. The fencing can either be of a brick wall or of barbed wires.”
Under the scheme, a district magistrate can sanction up to Rs 50 lakh, a commissioner up to Rs 2 crore and a law secretary above Rs 2 crore. There is no cap on the fencing amount.
Though rough estimates suggest that over 200 statues have been stolen from temples in Bihar in the last one decade, the council lists 33 big thefts of statues.