By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, January 5, 2022: The Odisha Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to Sri Jagannath Temple Act of 1954, simplifying issues pertaining to land owned by the temple.

With the amendment, the temple administration and officials concerned have power to sell or lease out temple land without any approval from the state government.

Earlier, people who had occupied or were in possession of the temple land for a long period had to approach the state government for sale or transfer of the plot concerned.

“The State Cabinet has delegated powers to the temple administration and officials concerned for sale and lease of land in the name of Lord Jagannath. Henceforth, approval of the state government is not required for sale and lease of land,” state Law Minister Pratap Jena said.

The temple managing committee, administrative officials and collectors of respective districts can now decide on this, Jena added.

Around 60,426 acres of land in the name of Lord Jagannath has been identified in Odisha’s 24 districts. Further, more than 395 acres have been identified in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar. These plots are either occupied or are in possession of different people for decades. A uniform policy was brought in to facilitate settlement of land to eligible people. From 2001 to 2010, 291 acres was settled; 96 acres were settled between 2011 and 2021.

Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra said: “After the uniform policy came into effect in 2003, many people occupying these land and living there for generations had approached the state government for sale or transfer of the land in their names. But the process was tedious and time-taking, since every case from across districts would come to the state government for approval. In many cases it took two to four years for the government to clear the files, and thousands of applicants faced difficulties.”

Following the amendment, the process will be decentralised and decisions will be taken at various levels, Mohapatra said. “Through this, a lot of land which had remained unused by the temple will be sold and will add to the temple’s income,” he said.

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