M A I N   N E W S

J-K Govt trying to ‘subvert’ Vaishno Devi Shrine Board
At stake is hundreds of kanals of land in Katra
Tribune News Service

The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine land belongs to the deity and the shrine cannot be owned by any government agency
The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine land belongs to the deity and the shrine cannot be owned by any government agency

Jammu, September 23
The Jammu and Kashmir Government is apparently seeking to subvert the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, allegedly under the pressure of political groups, in what is being deemed as an anti-pilgrimage measure that will only lead to corruption.

The government had issued an order extending the jurisdiction of the Katra Municipality up to the shrine, its surroundings as well as the track to take control of almost everything that is under the control of the shrine board since 1986. It is alleged that this move would help the land mafia and its political patrons.

The Housing and Urban Development Department issued a notification on April 8 extending the jurisdiction of the Katra Municipality to areas under the control of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board bypassing the Shrine Board Act of 1988. The shrine and the yatra are managed by the board, which has spent money on developing and increasing facilities. This has resulted in over one crore pilgrims visiting the shrine every year.

In its notification issued under SRO 198 dated April 8, 2013, it is said the government “hereby direct(s) that the local areas falling within erstwhile Municipal Committee Purana Deroor shall henceforth form the local area of the Municipal Committee, Katra”.

When asked about the logic behind the notification, Urban Development Minister Rigzin Jora said, “It is to compliment the efforts of the shrine board. It is not that the Katra Municipality and the shrine board are at loggerheads. We are complimenting each other.”

He said since the board is the creation of the Assembly and the state government, facilities to pilgrims and brought improvements. It also took care of the area’s fragile environment while undertaking development works, much to the relief of the pilgrims.

The objective of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Act was to provide for better management and governance of the holy shrine and its endowments, including the appurtenant lands and buildings.

At stake is land measuring 1,48,486 canals and two marlas according to a survey. The land price in Katra is between Rs 2 crore and Rs 5 crore a kanal.

The Katra Municipality would charge even for carrying a cement bag to the shrine for construction of the facility and it would also allot land and other property. As municipal elections have not been held for over three years now, the municipalities are working under the direct control of the state government.

Sources say this action of the state’ government is deemed as anti-pilgrimage and anti-shrine board as it would boost corruption given the high premium on property in and around Katra.

The land belongs to the deity and the shrine cannot be owned by any government agency. This swathe of land was allotted to the deity by Maharaja Gulab Singh, founder of the Dogra rule in Jammu and Kashmir, when he first visited the shrine to pay obeisance after becoming the king.

"There is no law that allows the government to tamper with the autonomous status of the shrine board and the facilities that it has built ever since it took control of the shrine and its management on August 31, 1986," said a senior officer acquainted with the whole process and the legal status of the land.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, however, said he was “not aware of all this, but would find out (about the notification)”.





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |