Temple priests on strike in AP

Temple priests on strike in AP

Thousands of priests in Andhra Pradesh are on a warpath. As a result, the deities in about 18,000 temples across the state were deprived of their daily rituals.

Nearly 36,000 priests and other staff of small and medium temples are demanding a hike in salaries and improvement in their working conditions, according to Telangana Archaka Samakhya, which is spearheading the strike.

 The “Arjitha Sevas”  (paid rituals) in these temples have come to a halt following the strike. While all major temples with annual revenue of more than Rs 1 crore functioned normally, the devotees visiting smaller temples had a hard time with priests and the other staff refusing to perform “arjitha sevas” like “archana” and “Abhishekam”.

“We will continue the strike till August 14 and launch an indefinite hunger strike after August 15 if the government fails to meet our long-pending demands,” warned the Vice-President of AP Archaka Samakhya P Narasimha Charyulu and General Secretary T Ratnakar.

Besides the wage hike, the priests want the temple revenues to be used for welfare of the priests and improvement of infrastructure and other facilities at the temples. They lamented that though the State Endowments Act was amended in 2007 for the benefit of the priests and temple employees, the provisions have not been implemented. However, the strike did not have any impact on major temples at Tirumala, Srisailam, Bhadrachalam, Simhachalam, Vijayawada and Basara.

The priests and employees staged dharna near the endowment department’s office in Hyderabad on Friday. They said they are planning to lay siege to the Endowment Commissioner’s office on August 11 besides a “Chalo Hyderabad” programme on August 12. Meanwhile,  officials said the temples had lost considerable income due to the strike.There are over 37,000 temples in the state, employing nearly 70,000 priests. 

There is a huge disparity in their salaries. Depending on the annual income of the temple, through “Hundi” collections and paid rituals, the priests are paid a consolidated monthly remuneration ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 4,000. 

There are 19 major temples whose annual income is above Rs 10 crore while 1,130 temples get an income up to Rs 25 lakh. 

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