Odisha cabinet has now come up with a mischievous amendment to the Sri Jagannath Temple Act of 1954 empowering government officials to dispose off or lease out Temple property without approval of the state government. It is bad enough that ancient Hindu Temples and religious institutions have been taken over by the state governments, it is worse now that Temple property can be disposed off by the Temple administration which is mainly composed of pliant government officials. Earlier any alienation or lease of Temple property required the approval of the State government.
So, Temple property which actually belongs to Bhagwan Jagannath and should be managed by its local Sampradaya devotees is not only taken over by the state government but left to the discretion and sweet will of the Temple administration officials without any accountability. Moreover, the Temple lands belonging to Lord Jagannath are alienated for non-religious purposes which goes against the grain of the spirituality attached to these properties. Huge tracts of lands donated for ancient Temples were originally conceived as properties owned by the resident Bhagwan dedicated for Dharmic purposes. The Jagannath Temple was taken over by the government in 1954 under the Sri Jagannath Temple Act. The Indian Express report mentions that, Lord Jagannath owns about 60,426 acres of land in 24 districts across Odisha and over 395 acres of land in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar. These lands have been occupied for more than 50 years by people or large institution complexes of schools, hospitals etc. Instead of reclaiming these properties from encroachers, the government is giving a free hand to unscrupulous, pliant government babus and Temple Committees infested with politicians to sell off these properties to the encroachers.
The situation is worse in Tamil Nadu where the government has started unilaterally interfering in the Temple rituals and appointment of Archakas in violation of Agama shastras under the garb of managing Temples. Temple loot schemes like melting of gold jewellery to make 2000kgs of gold bars for depositing in banks are mooted, which are purely recipes for swindling Temple wealth. Non-Hindus are employed in temples, temple lands are encroached by Church complexes right under the nose of government administration. There are thousands of ancient Temples under government control lying in ruins, without even a single pooja per day being conducted.
It is baffling that in a democratic, secular republic like India, secular governments singularly control Hindu Temples and religious establishments while maintaining a safe distance from Churches and Mosques. When secular governments cannot build temples using taxpayers’ money, how can secular governments takeover and control Temples built by Hindu devotees?
When the government is getting out of the service sector and gradually privatising railways, airways, ports, telecommunications and even the defence sector why does it want to take over Temples? Is it because Temples are cash cows for the government where it gets easy money donated by Hindu devotees in thousands of crores, which is diverted for non-Hindu purposes? A secular government has no business in managing Temples. It is high time Hindu Samaj starts a pan-India movement to reclaim our ancient heritage and Temples from the brown sepoy governments.
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