JAMMU, Sept 2: In an unbecoming act on their part, the Jammu Municipal Corporation and Jammu Development Authority in collaboration with the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited are hell bent to usurp the prime land of Panjvaktra Mahadev Temple, one of the oldest places of worship, by constructing a multilevel car parking without any legal right.
These nefarious designs of both these agencies having the responsibility of checking illegal activities are hurting the sentiments of the public in general and devotees in particular, who want the Government to immediately intervene to safeguard the property of the temple.
The Panjvaktra Mahadev Temple is the oldest temple of Jammu having a rare Dogra heritage value and significance and is highly revered by the people for centuries. The temple has around 25 kanals of land in the heart of the city, a portion of which is under the possession of tenants.
In the past several attempts were made by different influential entities to usurp the property of the temple. However, they failed in their designs due to the intervention of the High Court, which even appointed the then Registrar General Suresh Kumar Sharma as the caretaker of the Panjvaktra Mahadev Temple.
Last year, the Jammu Smart City Corporation authorities approached the caretaker with a proposal for creating multi-level car parking system in the portion of the temple property, which is in the possession of tenants. It was proposed that funding for the construction of the parking would be provided by the Smart City Limited and investment made by them would be recovered from the profits and thereafter, the temple would have exclusive rights over the property.
As the caretaker was not in a position to take any decision, he suggested that a concrete and detailed project report regarding the construction of parking may be furnished along with stipulated agreement regarding sharing of profits for a fixed period and rehabilitation plan for the tenants etc so that the same is submitted to the court for consideration.
However, no detailed project report was furnished and on the contrary on August 29, 2020 the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited in joint collaboration with the Jammu Municipal Corporation and Jammu Development Authority invited bids for project titled “Development of Multilevel Car Parking System and Commercial Complex on PPP Model at Panjvaktra Temple”.
In the Concession Agreement it has been fraudulently claimed that the temple land belongs to the Jammu Municipal Corporation. “JMC is the absolute owner of the plot of land measuring 3285 square meters situated at Panjvakhtar Temple and proposes to develop and implement the project on Public Private Partnership mode”, reads the agreement.
The agreement further states: “The multilevel car parking will be developed under Design Build Finance Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) basis with concession period for 12 years and the commercial complex will be leased out for 62 years from the appointed date under the terms of agreement”.
Moreover, as per the Notice Inviting Tenders, the authorities claim ownership over the property of the temple and this can be gauged from the relevant paragraph which reads: “JMC has the clear title of the project site together with the necessary access, right of way and way-leaves and that JMC has full powers to hold, dispose of and deal with the same consistent with the provisions of the agreement and that the concessionaire shall in respect of the project site have no liability regarding any compensation payment on account of rehabilitation/resettlement or land acquisition for any persons affected thereby”.
The illegal acts of JMC and JDA were brought before the High Court through a formal application, which noted that it was specifically barred from issuing any further orders in the light of the final judgment and therefore lacked jurisdiction. However, the High Court by way of order dated September 2, 2020, has granted liberty to the applicant (caretaker of the temple property) to approach the district court where the matter is pending.
“All this clearly indicates that there is a malafide intent of authorities to pass off the property of the temple as that of Jammu Municipal Corporation and thereby usurp and construct a parking space without any right or authority to do so”, sources said.