10,000 ha of temple land usurped


Malabar Devaswom Board in a quandary over executing High Court order

he Malabar Devaswom Board (MDB) is trying to figure out how to execute an interim order of the High Court of Kerala, asking it to recover thousands of hectares of temple lands that have been illegally cornered by encroachers in North Kerala.

MDB commissioner and secretary K. Ravikumaran told The Hindu on Wednesday that the board would present its views before the court. “It is a complex issue, kept pending for a long time now. The quantum of encroachment will be huge, and reclaiming it will become a social issue as well. Some of these encroached lands now have buildings, including schools and houses, on them,” he said.

The MDB has about 1,400-odd temples run by various trustees attached to it. Sources say the encroachments vary from a few cents to hundreds of acres. Many encroachers might even have clandestinely secured title deeds for the temple land, in connivance with the Revenue Department.

Swami Bharati Maharaj, one of the litigants in the case, pointed out that a total of 9,877.2 hectares of temple land under the MBD has been encroached upon. This was also stated by Devaswom Minister V.S. Sivakumar in the State Assembly in 2014.

Subsequently, K.R. Jyothilal, Secretary, Department of General Administration, had issued orders on September 1, 2014 and on May 23, 2015 to recover these lands. However, the orders were not executed, resulting in litigation in the High Court.

MDB president Sajjeev Maroli said the State government should constitute a special revenue team to initiate an anti-encroachment drive and take into possession the land belonging to the temples. “We need to proceed legally with documentary proof,” he said. Many believe that the incompetence of temple trustees had led to this situation. The temples began losing their properties when the aged trustees failed to hand over the management to the next generation.

Some might even have given away portions of the temple land to their relatives. That apart, in many cases, the new generation trustees lost interest in temple affairs while in others, they have usurped the wealth of the temples, according to sources.

“Many of the trustees even have no idea of their temple assets. We first need to identify the actual land of the temples. This is not the case with temples under the MDB alone. It is a State-wide issue,” Mr. Ravikumaran said.

Some of these lands now have buildings, schools and houses on them.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2017 7:05:43 PM |