Sharks eat up God’s land, Hyderabad
source: Deccan Chronile Sept. 9,2006
Gods too are under threat from predatory land sharks, if one goes by the encroachment of temple lands in the State. It seems land grabbers are not afraid of divine wrath. Be it the fiery Varaha Laxmi Narasimhaswamy of Simhachalam or the serene Lord Ram in Bhadrachalam, all deities and their dwellings are fair game for them
Of the 4,20,028 acres of temple lands owned by the endowments department in Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Guntur, Kurnool, Warangal and Hyderabad, 60,843.47 acres are under illegal occupation and 24,349.66 acres are caught in litigations of various kinds. Major temples whose lands are under encroachment include Jagannadhaswamy Balaji Mutt in Ramayapatnam (54 acres), Dharmatopu temple in Tangutur (5.17 acres), Sri Ramalingeswaraswamy temple of Chimakurthy (2.05 acres), and Sri Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy temple in Peddadornala (13.41 acres).
Apart from this, lands belonging to Nageswaraswamy temple in Tangutur, Sri Madana Gopalaswamy temple in Chirala and Sri Lakshmi Chennakeshavaswamy temple in Markapuram have also been encroached upon. Agriculture lands constitute 3,49,359 acres of the total endowments lands, while forest lands amount to 27,213 acres. Encroachment of endowment lands is highest in Warangal with 19,228.12 acres followed by Visakhapatnam with 14, 858.77 acres and Hyderabad with 12,122.85 acres.
Not all encroachers are professional land grabbers. Some are poor Dalits who have built dwellings in these lands. But the majority consists of “invisible” bigwigs with political clout. The government has initiated action against several encroachers and has succeeded in removing them from endowment lands. But several have pre‑empted the government by moving court. “We are trying our best to check encroachments in temple lands,” said endowments commissioner Dinesh Kumar. “But the properties are huge and staff strength is low.”
The government also tried to regularise some of the lands, but the High Court recently put a stop to it and asked it to dispose of its lands through public auction if necessary. “But the fact remains that auction can be conducted only if the lands are free from encroachments,” pointed an endowments official. In East Godavari, about 6.37 acres of wet land and 585.17 acres of dry land owned by the endowments department is under unauthorised occupation or caught in legal disputes.
Thanks to an HC stay on acquisition of endowments land, the Indiramma housing scheme for the poor has also come to a halt here. Meanwhile, endowments officials in Khammam are fighting a bitter battle to recover 1,835 acres of encroached lands including 906 acres belonging to the Sita Ramachandraswamy Temple at Bhadrachalam. Mr V.S.C.V. Subba Rao, assistant commissioner of endowments in Ongole, said that 135. 46 acres owned by the department was under illegal occupation. “We have filed cases against some encroachers,” he said.