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Puri eviction drive in public interest, says amicus curiae

Puri eviction drive in public interest, says amicus curiae

Puri, Sep 7 (PTI) Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae Ranjit Kumar on Saturday virtually gave a clean chit to the Odisha government's eviction drive around Jagannath Temple, saying it was being carried out with consent of the stakeholders and would be benefit the people. Kumar and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta visited the temple, and met Govardhan Peeth shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati and Puri Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingh Deb. It was followed by a meeting with senior government officials, including Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) chief administrator Krishna Kumar. Based on the recommendations of a judicial panel, the Odisha government and the Puri district administration have launched an eviction drive last month in the area surrounding the 12th-century shrine and all structures within 75 metres of its boundary wall are being cleared. "We spoke to the temple managing committee members, took their views and inspected the eviction drive along the four sides of the temple," Kumar told reporters. "During our interaction with the people, we found out that no one is being forced during the eviction drive and the work that is being carried out now will benefit the people," said Kumar, who was appointed by the apex court to assist it in a matter related to the administration of Jagannath Temple. The amicus curiae said he discussed with the officials about the state government's development plans for Puri. "The apex court has asked us to look into the action of the state government," he said. "We have found the decision taken to convert Puri into a world heritage city is not adversely affecting local people. The work will help devotees and visitors." Referring to the protests by local residents and monks, Kumar said the eviction drive was undertaken after negotiation. "There is no need to stop the eviction drive," he sad. Kumar pointed out that necessary preparations would have to be taken for 'Nagarjuna Bhesa' -- in which the deities are dressed like warriors -- that will be held next year after 25 years. More than 15 lakh devotees are expected to witness the ceremony. Meanwhile, several local residents and members of an organisation, Shrikhetra Surakshya Manch, have expressed their displeasure for not getting an opportunity to meet the two visiting officials. "We were expecting to convey our grievances about the rehabilitation policy of the state government," said Manch convenor Damodar Pradhani. "We are not opposing the eviction drive, but want proper rehabilitation of the affected families." Pradhani said the people, who were evicted by the state government during the Lord Nabakalebara festival in 2015, were yet to be rehabilitated. PTI AAM ACD HMB