ANDHRA PRADESH

Temple lands encroached in city

Land-grabbers' nexus with politicians, officials alleged Land-grabbers' nexus with politicians, officials alleged

Staff Reporter

HYDERABAD: Valuable temple property, estimated at hundreds of crores, is under encroachment in Hyderabad and its outskirts, a survey conducted by the Temple Protection Committee, in the wake of the recent endowments land scam, has revealed.

According to a spokesman of the committee, 50 per cent of the `land-grabbers' have strong political connections, while others include those who are `patronised' by the Endowments Department.

Among the worst to suffer encroachments is Sri Sitaramachandra Swamy Temple, at Sitarambagh, Mallepally. It has allegedly lost eight acres and several shops. Another is Sri Lakshminarayana Swamy Temple, Banjara Hills. It had over 40 acres prior to 1984-85. Now only seven or eight acres remain. This precious land was occupied and sold, thanks to `high-level collusion which led to disappearance of records', the survey found.

Another is the Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple, Mehdipatnam, whose lands are famous for housing the Gudimalkapur vegetable market. Although crores accrued to the Endowment Department in the sale of lands, the temple continues to be neglected as no proper puja is performed, the spokesman alleged. Over 50 per cent of its property is under illegal occupation.

The survey found several reasons for the thriving business of illegal occupation of temple lands -- about one-fifth of the 1,000 strong staff working in the Endowments Commissionerate has "managed to stay put in the office for the last 15 to 20 years adopting dubious means".

`Dubious' appointments

The other reason is appointment of founder-trustees of over 2,000 private temples, which are under the department's control. Since a number of them were appointed through questionable means, they allegedly overlooked corruption and other deeds, the respondents contacted for the survey alleged.

Another reason is the appointment of `excess' staff in many of the Class `A' and `B' temples.

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