With the change of guard at Fort St. George, the officials of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department swung into action on May 23 to retrieve 2.40 acres of land belonging to the Somanathaswamy Temple, Kolathur, in Poompuhar Nagar, Kolathur.
A senior official, who supervised the eviction drive, said that though the ownership of the land clearly belonged to the temple, some people having political connections had leased out the property to some private contractors for storing construction materials.
All steps to evict the encroacher for quite a few years had been futile, as they had some political connections. But with the change in the regime, we decided to evict the encroachment with the help of police officials, he said.
On May 23, the officials of the department equipped with all the necessary documents and supported by Revenue Department visited the site and ordered the encroachers to vacate the place. After the encroachers pleaded for some time, the officials installed a display board to warn people from intruding into the property.
One of the ancient Saivite temples in the city, several philanthropists had donated lands to the temple in Kolathur which are worth crores of rupees.
Asked about the steps proposed to be taken in the vacant land, the senior official said that at present they had not yet decided on how to use the vacant land. Social welfare activists pointed out that with land prices shooting up the vacant lands of HR and CE department had become a soft target for land grabbers. The activists want the officials of the HR and CE department to take steps to protect the land by installing display boards and also to construct compound wall wherever vacant lands areavailable.
Residents' welfare activists in the locality pointed out that Kolathur, which was once a village, had witnessed the rise of multi-storeyed flats in the area. A portion of the vacant land may be used for car parking on a monthly basis and the rest of the space for storing construction materials for contractors, as the vacant land could be occupied and at the same time the temple would get some rent.
Only a few months back, the officials of the HR and CE department had retrieved a huge vacant land worth several crores of rupees located on the arterial Poonamallee High Road in Kilpauk. The land belonging to Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Egmore had been taken over by Chennai Metro Rail Limited for construction of metro station and storing materials.
The property had been leased out to private contractors for storing construction materials.