With an aim to organise Simhastha – a Hindu religious mela (fair) held every 12 years on the bank of Shipra River in Ujjain – Madhya Pradesh government has acquired acres of land including private land, and has put it under Simhastha Mela Authority (SMA).
The government has also issued a notification, and has barred any construction on the land, as it will be used for holding the future Simhastha Mela.
The future of this fair is under threat, as local builders and residents have been selling the reserved Simhastha fields under the nose of district administration. However, as the matter has come to light, the administration has woken up and has ordered a probe.
During the initial probe, the committee has found that 22 illegal colonies have been constructed in Bhairavgarh, Surasa, Kd palace, Gadkalika and nearby areas which were reserved for the mela.
Confirming it, Patwari of the area, Subhash Sharma, said, “Post-Simhastha, illegal construction is rampant here. Locals and small builders have been selling the lands for high price, and some homes have also been built.”
“Though, after the complaint, the administration has choked the illegal construction, and is planning to raze the constructed ones,” Sharma added.
The world had witnessed the glory of recently concluded Simhastha 2016, held from April 22 to May 21, 2016, where around 7-8 crore devotees had participated, and took a holy dip. The state government had spent Rs 5,000 crore to continue the legacy.
Congress-BJP blame game
The land issue has triggered a political controversy in the state. Congress is blaming ruling BJP for the illegal construction, and is claiming that the BJP leaders are behind this racket.
Congress leader Rajendra Vashisht said, “By greasing government official’s palm, BJP leaders are running this encroachment racket.”
He further alleged, “BJP-led state government first acquired lands including private ones by giving compensation, and now the BJP leaders are selling those lands indirectly under the nose of district administration, but Congress will not let them do it.”
It is worth mentioning that the BJP is ruling in all seven assembly constituencies of the Ujjain including Lok Sabha seats as well as Municipal Corporation. MLA from Ujjain constituency Paras Jain is Cabinet Minister of Energy and New and Renewable Energy in Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government.
Refuting Congress’ claim, Jain said, “Congress’ claims are false. They only know how to accuse others under false charges. None of the BJP leaders are involved in it. It is happening due to the carelessness of the district administration.”
What officials said
Speaking over the issue, Ujjain Divisional Commissioner MB Ojha, said, “Construction in the reserved land of mela is totally illegal, even if it is a private land because government has reserved those lands for Simhastha Mela. Acting on the complaint, district administration has called for a probe. Initially, we have found 22 illegal construction colonies on the prohibited lands. Though, we are taking strict actions against contractors and planning raze the constructed structures.”
When asked about BJP leaders’ involvement in the matter, he chose not to reply.
However, the chairman of Simhastha Mela Authority, Diwakr Natu is worried about the future of Ujjain Mela, if encroachments continue on the land.
Talking to Newslick he said, “If such illegal construction is not ended, the future of mela is under threat. In the previous Simhastha, we have witnessed around eight crore devotees, and we managed such a large number of gathering because of the land. Moreover, the numbers may shoot up in Simhastha 2028. If lands are being encroached, how we will manage the crowd? ”
The government had acquired 3,277 hectares of agricultural land from more than 3,500 farmers to construct 40,000 toilets and facilities to provide water for drinking as well as bathing, parking, and more. The government claims to have returned the farmland to 60 per cent of the farmers. But according to the local farmers, not even 30 per cent of the farmers have got their land back in a condition that they had handed it over to the government for the festival.