Bhadrachalam: People, who allegedly usurped the land belonging to Sri Sitaramachandra Swamy Devastanam and have been cultivating it without paying any tenancy amount to the temple board, have started digging the land without any permission from anybody.

The temple owns 917 acres of land at Purushottapatnam in Etapaka mandal of East Godavari district. Out of this, 27.5 acres of land was sold following the issue of an order issued by the then government.

The temple now owns 889.50 acres of land there out of which roads, irrigation tanks and hillocks occupy about 105 acres. The Devastanam has allocated 11.71 acres to the Tourism Department but a decision to that effect is yet to be taken. A proposal to construct cottages in 25.35 acres is also pending.

The people, who allegedly usurped 722 acres of land, are paying damage charges to the Devastanam for 722 acres. The then Executive Officer of Devastanam, S S Chandrasekhar Azad made the land users pay the damage charges to the Devastanam directly since 2005. However, they are paying only Rs 15 lakh to the Devastanam per annum.
Though the land is used for cultivation, more in reality, the usurpers are paying only nominal amount to the Devastanam.

Recently it has been found that one person who had been paying regularly damage charges to the Devastanam for six acres, later declared that 10.28 acres is also under his occupation and started paying the additional damage charges since 2005. However, he started digging in half acre land for the last six months. Since the land is situated away from the main road, nobody noticed the digging. It is suspected that the digging was undertaken for cultivating fish.

Though there is a separate wing for taking care of the temple lands, the digging of the land went unnoticed for reasons better known to the authorities.

EO Ramesh Babu said he had instructed the Assistant EO to lodge a complaint with the police against the person who dug the land. He said he would move the court to get compensation for damaging the temple land. According to him, two outsourcing persons who did not report the matter to the temple management were removed from service. He was in favour of departmental action against the temple staff for negligence of duty.

BJP senior leader Avula Subba Rao demanded protection to the temple lands. Talking to The Hans India, he said that several people were not paying tenancy amount to the temple. Alleging that the persons who usurped the temple lands have been doing several businesses with them, he demanded that the government react and protect the lands.