The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) department of the Tamil Nadu government has started retrieving encroached temple land. The department has, according to the Minister for HR&CE, P.K. Sekar Babu, retrieved around Rs 600 crore worth temple land and has targeted to retrieve land worth Rs 10,000 crore in the near future.
A division bench of the Madras High Court had on June 9, 2021 while hearing a petition on encroached temple land asked the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department about the status of 47,000 acres of temple land that was not seen in the records.
The division bench of Justices N. Kirubakaran and T.V. Thamilselvi had called for an explanation from the state government on the status of 47000 acres of temple land missing from government records. The court asked the state government pleader, Richard Wilson how there is a discrepancy in the temple land since the policy note of 1984-85 states that there were 5.25 lakh acres of temple land while a note of 2019- 20 shows that there are only 4.78 lakh acres. This shows that there is a difference of 47000 acres of temple land.
The court also directed the HR&CE department to submit information in court regarding the specific details and survey numbers of the land mentioned in the policy note of 1984-85 and that in the policy note of 2019-20.
After the stringent observation of the division bench of the Madras High Court, the HR&CE department commenced retrieving temple land from encroachers and illegal occupants.
Sekar Babu said that the government has taken steps to retrieve the entire land of Ekambareswar temple at Kancheepuram. The land is located at the Poonamalle High Road at Kilpauk.
The minister said that 45 grounds of land have already been retrieved of the total 140 grounds of land. 95 ground property of the Ekambareswar temple is yet to be retrieved, which according to the minister would be done soon. The value of the 45 grounds of retrieved land according to the HR&CE department would be around Rs 160 crore while that of the 95 acres is around Rs 450 crores.
On Monday the department has razed a 1970 square feet property constructed illegally on the encroached land of the Ekambareswar temple. Three shops were also in the razed building, according to Sekar Babu.
The minister told IANS, “We have already retrieved 600 crore worth of temple land across the state and it’s a very small volume of the land to be retrieved. However, the government is keen to retrieve all the missing or encroached properties of temples across the state.”
He added, “We are planning to retrieve Rs 10,000 crore temple land in the near future and the state government under Chief Minister, M.K. Stalin is in the process of retrieving each inch of lost Temple land and all the encroached temple land would be retrieved and handed over to the respective temples”.
The government is also taking action based on online complaints as well as registered complaints and Public interest Litigations on the encroached temple lands across the state.
Ramesh Krishnaswamy, director, Action and Course, an NGO based out of Tirunelveli and working for the retrieval of temple land while speaking to IANS said, “Taking possession of encroached temple land is a herculean task and most of the men who have encroached on the temple land are connected to the major political parties of the state. However the stringent intervention of the Madras High Court on the 47000-acre land has led to government taking action to retrieve temple land.”