[Watch] Puri Heritage Corridor Mess: ASI Culprit No. 1, Says Bijoy Mohapatra

Bhubaneswar: The BJD-led Odisha government might be under fire for the controversy over the Puri Heritage Corridor project, but state BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra on Tuesday squarely blamed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the mess.

Mohapatra said that if the ASI had taken active interest in the project from the beginning as it was coming up on land within 100 metres or 200 metres of the Jagannath Temple, there would have been no controversy today. But it remained silent and was missing from the picture all along, he said.

Listing the ASI’s lapses, Mohapatra said the ASI or the Centre 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 not done.

The BJP leader said that the ASI has completely failed in discharging its responsibility and powers bestowed on it, resulting in the controversy. It did not take any step to stop or inspect the project despite having the powers to do so, he said.

During the hearing in the Orissa High Court, the ASI counsel was quiet, he pointed out. Only after the HC’s direction, it participated in a joint inspection and submitted its affidavit. Before that, the ASI did nothing, which makes it “the Number 1 culprit in the entire mess”, Mohapatra said.

Mohapatra asked why didn’t the ASI carry out impact assessment survey, ground assessment survey and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey at the site instead of blaming the government. Wasn’t it its responsibility, he said.

He also questioned why did the ASI allow the razing of the Emar Mutt and other mutts despite being structures of heritage and historical significance.

He pointed out that around the time the Emar Mutt in Puri was being razed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inaugurating a statue of Ramanujacharya, who built the Emar Mutt, in Hyderabad.

Mohapatra criticised political parties for politicizing the issue. “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. In a veiled reference to BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra, he criticised leaders for carrying idols of Lord Jagannath and indulging in drama over the issue.

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