Tamil Nadu

Strongrooms in over 3,000 temples by 2019-end: govt.

One of the suggestions made is that idols inside the strongrooms should be visible from all sides.   | Photo Credit: Narayan Lakshman

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department on Monday submitted a revised schedule before the Madras High Court for the construction of strongrooms in 3,087 temples in the State to preserve ancient idols. Since its original plan to complete the constructions by 2021 was disapproved by the court on July 13, the Department has redrawn the schedule and has promised to complete the civil works by December 2019.

Convinced with the new schedule, Justice R. Mahadevan directed Inspector General of Police A.G. Ponn Manickavel, heading the Idol Wing Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID), to submit a list of temples where the strongrooms should be constructed on priority.

The police officer was also asked to give his suggestions on the specifications since he insisted that idols inside the strongrooms should be visible from all sides. Earlier, Additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian submitted an affidavit sworn by HR&CE Commissioner R. Jaya stating that the Department had initially sought time till 2021 due to paucity of staff and other constraints. However, after the court refused to grant such a long time, the Commissioner convened a meeting with officials of Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation (TNPHC) on July 16 in an attempt to speed up the works.

The TNPHC submitted a design for a model strongroom to be constructed at the Pasupatheeswarar Temple in Pandanallur of Thanjavur district.

Review by experts

However, that design was neither prepared in consultation with experts in Agama Sastras and Shilpa Sastras nor was the structure of the temple taken into consideration before preparing it. Therefore, the Chief Engineer of the Corporation agreed to get it vetted by experts in ancient Hindu principles.

After such vetting, the Corporation would begin construction of the strongroom as a pilot project because it was not clear whether it would be willing to waive its demand for 7.5% of the project cost as supervisory charges and 1% as consultancy charges. In case of the other 3,086 temples, it had been decided to constitute a government-approved committee for scrutiny of designs, preparation of estimates and empanelment of qualified suppliers.

The committee would consist of Chief Engineer of Public Works Department, Superintending Engineer of TNPHC, Principal of Government College for Architecture and Sculpture at Mahabalipuram, Superintending Engineer of the HR&CE department, the regional Stapathy concerned and a special invitee. Division-level sub-committees had already been constituted to undertake preliminary works and they had completed inspection of 272 temples.

If all goes well, inspection of the 3,086 temples would be completed before December 31, 2018, and estimates shall be approved before February 28, 2019. After approving the tenders before June 30, 2019, the works would be completed by the end of the next year, Ms. Jaya said. She, nevertheless, added a rider that the schedule could be adhered to only if the designs and locations of the strongrooms were prepared and approved at the rate of at least 200 per week.

When Mr. Manickavel claimed that constitution of committees by the HR&CE Department was nothing but an attempt to delay the constructions, the judge assured him that the court would monitor the progress periodically and make sure that the strongrooms were constructed within the time schedule.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 1:06:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/strongrooms-in-over-3000-temples-by-2019-end-govt/article24557128.ece

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