CM announces Rs 500-cr Puri package, seeks people's support

Amid protests over the governments eviction drive near Puris Shri Jagannath Temple, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday urged people to cooperate and make sacrifices for the upkeep and security of the 12th century shrine.

Patnaik also announced a Rs 500-crore special package for developing the temple town into a world heritage site.

The Odisha government, in its attempt to ensure safety of the shrine, has decided to evict people and demolish all structures within 75-metre radius of its boundary wall.

Patnaik said security has to be tightened at the temple in view of terrorist threats to religious institutions across the globe.

"Terrorism poses a big challenge to the world.

Terrorists have no religion. They are targeting different religious institutions. Therefore, it is essential to take measures to secure the temple," he said after chairing a high-level meeting here, which was attended by Chief Secretary AK Tripathy and DGP BK Sharma among others.

The CM gave assurances that his government would rehabilitate those displaced during the eviction drive.

"It is a fact that some people will be affected by this eviction drive. However, I appeal to them to cooperate and come forward to make sacrifices for the security of the temple," the statement said quoting Patnaik.

Last week, people in Puri had taken to streets to protest against the eviction drive. They said that the government should have arranged for a public hearing before taking any decision.

"There can be no compromise on the security of Puri temple. Therefore, I request people to consider this initiative to secure the temple as a service to the Lord and cooperate accordingly," Patnaik iterated.

The CM maintained that the Rs 500-crore special package will cover expenses of rehabilitation, development of multi-lane roads, bridges, parking lots and revival of rivers and lakes in the town, the official statement said.

Earlier, Patnaik had announced multiple projects for Puri at a cost of Rs 265 crore under 'Augmentation Basic Amenities & Development of Heritage & Architecture' scheme.

According to the statement, the government will build a bridge connecting Puri with Jagganath Ballav Matha (temple) via Malatipatpur at a cost of Rs 190 crore.

The Jagganath Ballav Matha will be developed into a pilgrim centre with multi-level car parking, meditation space and multi-modal hub at a cost of Rs 180 crore, while the Musa river will be revived and connected with Mangala river for an estimated cost of Rs 85 crore, it said.

Krishan Kumar, the chief of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), said the government was taking all steps to ensure that work is undertaken "seamlessly".

"Many mathas (temples) will be redefined. The chief minister has stressed on conservation of ancient artifacts in the mathas," said Kumar.

Many heritage structures and lakes in Puri such as Sweta Ganga, Markanda, Narendra and Indradyumna tank will be renovated. The CM has issued directions for completion of work in two years, Kumar added.