Bhubaneswar, Dec 17:
Anger and resentment are the twin emotions that have gripped the people in Jatani, Khordha and many other villages of undivided Puri district as they have turned paupers overnight losing their title rights over land they and their forefathers had tilled for ages, thanks to a high handed decision of the state Revenue department.
They have pattas, record of rights and revenue receipts in their names. They also have also legally recognised title holding/rights in their names as sthitiban praja/ ryots (tenants) and have been paying land revenue to the government for the last 40 years. In short, they have everything that is required to prove ownership of land.
Notwithstanding their proof of ownership, however, the government bandobast records title holding rights of these lands in the name of Srimandir administration.
It may be noted that ‘akharjat mahal’ was created by including thousands of acres of land in undivided Puri district in 1863 to meet the routine expenses of the Shree Jagannath temple at Puri.
Land belonging to the sthitiban praja category was included in the mahal. The Srimandir’s expenses were borne out of tax collected from the holders of these lands.
Later, as per the bandobast system of the then British government in India, Lord Jagannath was made/recorded as the ‘zamindar’ or ‘madhyasatwadhikari’ of these lands.
The right to collect tax/land revenue from the praja/ ryots/cultivators of these lands was thus vested with Srimandir. But with the abolition of the zamindari system in the 1950s, these lands were vested with the government.
As per a notification issued by the state government on March 18, 1974, the people paid land revenue/cess to the government. The government’s notification, which was later challenged in the High Court and Supreme Court, prevailed after the petitions challenging it were dismissed by the court.
By virtue of the notification, the people have been paying revenue/land cess to the government and enjoying rights over these lands for the last forty years. These people have received parcha and patta in their names as sthitiban satwa/title holding right at the time bandobast.
As a result of a recent joint move by the Revenue department and the Srimandir administration, these lands have now been recorded in the name of Lord Jagannath. Thousands of sthitiban praja/tenants have lost rights to their lands in the bandobast records.
These people were never provided an opportunity to be heard nor were they allowed to register a protest. Overnight, they lost their right to the land in government records. Not only did several people suddenly lose their right to their homes and hearths and landed properties, they also lost use of commons like grazing grounds, cremation grounds and water bodies, which have now been recorded in the name of Lord Jagannath. Even land on which adivasis and landless people were rehabilitated by the government at different times has been transferred in the name of Lord Jagannath.
Meanwhile, a ban order has been issued on the sale, purchase, transfer, mutation and kissam (category) change of these lands.
According to the Revenue department and the Srimandir administration, everything has been done legally under Shri Jagannath land recovery program.
Chief Administrator, Srimandir, Arabinda Padhi said it was part of the efforts to recover Lord Jagannath’s land from the clutches of fake land owners and land mafia. He said if anybody felt that injustice has been done to him/her in the process, the dispute will resolved in accordance with the Uniform Policy-2003. “Nothing illegal has been done,” he said.
People, however, wonder how can ownership of land, for which the government collected revenue from them for 40 years, suddenly be taken away from them and vested in favour of Lord Jagannath.
They are also unable to understand how land that has already been settled against theie names be shown as unsettled and recorded in the name of Lord Jagannath.