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Can't trust them!

Can't trust them!

Author: Staff Reporter
Publication: Afternoon Despatch & Courier
Date: February 8, 2007
URL: http://cybernoon.com/DisplayArticle.asp?section=fromthepress&subsection=inbombay&xfile=February2007_inbombay_standard12100

Government Proposes to Take Over City's Temples; Dargahs Exempt

When the Government of Karnataka took over the management of religious places in the state for five years, little did the people know that it would result in the closure of 15,000 places of worship. The Right to Information Act helped concerned citizens find out what happened in the course of five years.

In five years' time the government amassed a huge amount of money to the tune of Rs. 391 crore and promptly spent 65% of the amount on Haj pilgrims. Another 15% went to Churches.

It may be assumed that the rest of the money - a mere 20% or even less - went towards the maintenance of the Hindu temples. Naturally, many could not survive on that.

Is that Bombay's fate?

Shivaji Vatkar, Co-ordinator, Mumbai Region, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) and Chanchal Choudhary, Senior Manager, Tulsidas Gopaliji Charitable and Dhakleshwar Temple Trust (TG Trust) say so.

Already religion is a gainful tool in its hands, and now its sinuous fingers are slithering over the state's temples and temple trusts.

The Government of Maharashtra has promptly appointed the 15th Law Commission to formulate the draft bill to take over the Management and Regulation of Temples and Religious Institutions.

The cause for its concern over the way temples are managed in the state is the stampede at Mandhardevi Temple in Satara, a district in Maharashtra. The report states that private trusts are incapable of handling religious crowds and funds are mismanaged.

"The first is a moot point as managing religious crowds is the job of the Government Controller and the police," said Vatkar. "The other accusation that private trusts mismanage funds is ridiculous if by that they mean to imply that the government does not mismanage funds! On the 28th of January, 2006 when an International Temple Summit was called for, the government-run trusts only spoke about turning temples into tourist places! And the amount of money it spent on that two-day summit was a whopping Rs. 24 lakh! Was that necessary?"

Vatkar goes on to say that they fear many rites and rituals conducted at temples will be stopped once the government takes over.

"There have been many cases where bhogs and dispensation of knowledge have been stopped due to alleged lack of funds," he said. "Soon 'lack of funds' will be the standard excuse to not do a lot of things. Meanwhile, whatever funds come in will automatically go to other religions!"

It is rather worthwhile to note that while the government will be taking over Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Boudh temples, dargahs, madrassas and masjids are exempt from this proposed bill.

"It is a known thing that the government has always been into minority appeasement," said Choudhary. "So it will do whatever it wants to Hindus and Sikhs and Jains but will not do anything to the Muslims and Christians. In fact, it will use the former to enhance the latter. Is it fair?"

Money seems to be the most obvious reason for this latest development.

"Most trusts have a lot of assets lying with them, be it liquid or otherwise," said Choudhary. "The government simply wants to lay its hands on those. It's pure, unadulterated temptation. Look at what has happened to the Siddhivinayak Temple - it is the first example of government corruption that comes to mind!"

There is not much one can do in the face of government determination, and when it comes to money matters, there is very little that can deter it from its course. The government ploughs on. While the concerned department has been unreachable for a comment on the matter, the TG Trust and the HJS have been meeting to decide what course of action to take against the Bill. It will be a long fight...

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