Tamil Nadu

Vacate stay on buying unwanted temple land: State government to High Court

State argues that the properties purchased will be used for granting house site pattas to the poor

The State government on Monday urged the Madras High Court to vacate an interim stay granted last year on the government’s decision to purchase unwanted temple land for granting house site pattas to the poor. It said the intention was to purchase only around 600 acres out of 4.78 lakh acres of temple lands in the State and distribute it to some 20,000 landless families, with each getting about three cents.

Appearing before a Division Bench of Justices M.M. Sundresh and Krishnan Ramasamy, Advocate General (A-G) Vijay Narayan said a government order issued on August 30 last year provides for regularisation of residential encroachments on unobjectionable government lands and provision of alternative house sites to the landless poor who had been occupying objectionable government lands for years together. The decision was taken since it was the State’s duty to provide house sites to poor families, most of whom belong to the Scheduled Castes, and who could not afford to buy house sites on their own and assist them in building houses through schemes such as Prime Minister’s Gramin Awaaz Yojana. Though the government had taken the decision in 2018 itself, the implementation got delayed due to intervening elections.

A recent survey found that it many districts, including the delta districts of Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam, there were absolutely no freehold land available to put up dwelling units and the government had to necessarily purchase unwanted temple lands to provide such facilities to the poor.

Survey findings

“As per the survey, 19,717 poor families are living in 13,156 huts and 6,561 tiled dwelling units on temple lands.

“Apart from these huts and dwelling units located on lands under the control of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, another 2,355 poor families were residing in 748 huts and 1,507 tiled units on other temple lands. Nagapattinam district alone has 10,908 huts and Tiruvarur, 6,773 huts on encroached temple lands. There are also some villages where almost the entire extent of land is owned by temples,” the A-G said.

Making it clear that most of the temple lands under encroachment were not fetching enough income required for performance of pujas in temples, Mr. Narayan said the government would be paying a handsome amount to those institutions. He also stated that the decision to sell the lands would be taken by the HR&CE department Commissioner on a case by case basis and not through a blanket order.

‘Fiercely independent’

Asserting that the HR&CE Department had always been fiercely independent in its decision-making process and it had in the past rejected proposals for acquiring certain temple lands even for Tangedco and construction of government hospitals, the A-G said, “The department had taken decisions based on best interests of the temple and not simply toed the line of the government.”

After hearing him at length, the judges adjourned to March 16 the further hearing on a couple of public interest litigation petitions filed against the government’s move.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 8:04:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/vacate-stay-on-buying-unwanted-temple-land-state-government-to-high-court/article30966949.ece

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