Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday announced a Rs 500 crore mega plan to develop Puri into a World Heritage City.
Significantly, the announcement came after the Puri administration carried out a massive demolition exercise around the boundary wall of Jagannath temple to free the premises from encroachment.
The four-day demolition drive, which removed several structures around the temple up to 75 meters from its boundary on all sides, was carried out on the recommendations of Justice BP Das Commission to ensure the temple’s safety and security.
“Terrorism has arisen as a major danger for the whole world. Terrorism has no religion; they target the holy places of various religions. It is therefore very essential to implement the recommendations that have come to ensure Srimandir’s security,” Patnaik said.
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government, which returned to power in the state for the fifth straight term in May, had announced an Rs 265-crore plan for infrastructure development in Puri earlier this month.
As part of the heritage preservation and infrastructure development plans, Puri will get a trumpet bridge, the first of its kind in Odisha, that would connect Puri bypass at Malatipatpur with Jagannath Ballav Math at a cost of Rs 190 crore. A multi-layer parking lot along with market space and a meditation centre for 10,000 people also would be constructed in the math premises at a cost of Rs 180 crore.
According to the statement, two rivers – Musa and Mangala – would be connected and facilities for riverfront tourism at a cost of Rs 85 crore. Atharanala, a historic laterite stone bridge over the Musa at the entrance of Puri town, would be remodelled at the expense of Rs 5 crore.
A lake will be created on an area of 28 acres and fitted with amenities for tourists at a cost of Rs 35 crore.
The chief minister has assured the people that those displaced during the drive will be rehabilitated properly.
“I assure you all that homes and shops coming in Srimandir’s security zone will be rehabilitated properly. The state government will also help the rebuilding of the mathas in the temple’s security zone. The mathas have special links to the rituals of Lord Jagannath,” Patnaik added.
“Our culture and traditions have evolved with the Mahaprabhu (Lord Jagannath) at their centre. He is the symbol of Odia identity. The security of Srimandir and the Mahaprabhu is the sacred duty of the Odia race,” he added.
Many districts, including Puri, were ravaged by Cyclone Fani which hit the coastal state on May 3. Of the 64 people killed in the disaster, 39 hailed from Puri district. Parts of Jagannath temple had suffered damage though the main structure stood unaffected.
The announcement that came on Janmashtami, the birth of Lord Krishna celebrated across the country, was welcomed by the people as a significant step to list the 12-century Jagannath temple on the global tourist map.