Odisha BJP leader ‘blames’ ASI for Puri Heritage Corridor fiasco

Bijay Mohapatra alleged that the ASI had taken any active interest in the project from the beginning.

Published - May 25, 2022 09:59 am IST - BHUBANESWAR:

Construction works outside of the Puri Jagannath temple as it is conducted by ASI for the beautification of the temple at Puri.

Construction works outside of the Puri Jagannath temple as it is conducted by ASI for the beautification of the temple at Puri. | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

As the ruling Biju Janata Dal and opposition BJP are engaged in a war of words over the Puri Heritage Corridor Project, senior saffron party leader Bijay Mohapatra targeted the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and alleged that the central agency was responsible for the mess.

While demanding a CBI probe into the entire corridor project episode, Mr. Mohapatra on May 24 said: "The ASI remained silent all along when the state government demolished mutts and also excavated bug pits within 75 metres from the protected monument like Shree Jagannath Temple." Had ASI done its job properly and raised an objection from day one, this controversy would not have taken place, he said.

Mr. Mohapatra alleged that the ASI had taken any active interest in the project from the beginning.

The senior BJP leader said the ASI should have set up a technical or expert panel to examine the project but it has not been formed yet. The state government too could have set up such a panel by consulting the ASI, but it was again not done, he said.

Mr. Mohapatra alleged that the ASI "completely failed" in discharging its responsibility and powers bestowed on it which has led to a major controversy today. It did not take any step to stop or inspect the project despite having the powers to do so, he said.

This apart, Mohapatra said that ASI’s counsel was silent all along when the Orissa High Court took up the matter. The ASI only participated in the joint inspection following a direction of the High Court.

He also "blamed" the ASI for not conducting an impact assessment survey, ground assessment survey, and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey at the site before execution of the work.

"No one should play politics with the Jagannath Temple in Puri, be it the party in power or those in opposition. Now the issue has turned into a political drama,” he said.

However, ASI officials here preferred not to comment on Mohapatra's allegations.

Meanwhile, the Odisha Bridge Construction Corporation (OBCC), the state agency executing the corridor project conducted Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey on Tuesday, this time during the daytime after holding it at night twice.

A delegation of different political parties on May 24 met Puri Govardhan Peeth Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati and sought his intervention and save the temple and its century-old culture and tradition.

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