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BJP’s duplicity on temple funds

While there are many temples that are prosperous, over 34,000 others which fall under the ‘C’ category are considered poor as their annual revenue is less than Rs 5 lakh.
Last Updated 28 February 2024, 01:37 IST

The BJP has not only communalised the debate over the amendments that were proposed to the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Act, 1997, which sought to provide social security measures to about one lakh temple archakas who are in dire straits, but also misled people on what the bill sought to do.

While the bill was passed in the Assembly, it was defeated in the Legislative Council, where the Opposition BJP-JD(S) combine is in a majority. The Opposition had taken objection to the proposal wherein 87 temples with a gross income of over Rs 1 crore per annum and 31 temples with over Rs 10 lakh revenue would be required to contribute 10% and 5%, respectively, of the amount to the Common Pool Fund that caters to all Muzrai temples in the state.

There is nothing new about the fund itself as it has been in existence ever since the Act was enacted in 1997. If anything, the provisions are only beneficial to the rich temples as the income threshold for mandatory contribution to the fund was increased from Rs 10 lakh earlier to Rs 1 crore. It was the BJP itself which had set the earlier threshold of Rs 10 lakh. 

While there are many temples that are prosperous, over 34,000 others which fall under the ‘C’ category are considered poor as their annual revenue is less than Rs 5 lakh. Many of these temples are in urgent need of repairs, while their priests are struggling to make ends meet.

While these temples were to receive Rs 25 crore from the fund for their maintenance, a substantial portion was to be earmarked for housing, children’s education and insurance for these priests.

The amendment also proposed the setting up of committees to ensure maintenance of temples. However, BJP leaders, including Union ministers Pralhad Joshi and Rajeev Chandrashekar, insinuated that the Congress government was extracting money from Hindu temples to fund the religious institutions of other communities.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said that the fund is administered solely for purposes associated with Hindu temples and their priests and has never been utilised for the benefit of the followers of other religions. The BJP should either provide proof of its allegation or stop communalising the issue and misleading people. 

It is unfortunate that the BJP scuttled the bill which, if enacted, would have gone a long way in providing much-needed funds for the maintenance of thousands of temples and improving the lives of priests.

Many temple administrations and the archakas’ association have criticised the BJP’s misleading stand, which it perhaps wants to make an election issue. A party which claims to represent the interests of the Hindus has done injustice to the community by acting in a way that is detrimental to its temples and priests.

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(Published 28 February 2024, 01:37 IST)

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