BJP alleges Karnataka government eyeing temple income, Minister defends move


PTI, Feb 22, 2024, 7:15 PM IST

Karnataka Minister Ramalinga Reddy on Thursday defended the state government’s move to collect funds from temples having gross income of Rs ten lakh.

The Transport and Hindu Religious Endowments Minister’s reaction came after the BJP mounted an attack on the government for introducing the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Bill.

The saffron party alleged that the Congress government wanted to fill it’s ’empty coffers’ with temple money.

Regarding the bill that was passed by the Karnataka Assembly on Wednesday, the state government said it was necessary to enhance the amount of common pool fund, include a person skilled in Vishwa Hindu Temple architecture and sculpture in the committee of management of notified institutions and to form district and state-level committees to improve temples and infrastructure for the safety of pilgrims.

Reddy told reporters that the provision was not new but has existed since 2003.

There are 3,000 C-Grade temples in Karnataka, which have less than Rs five lakh income from where ‘Dharmika Parishad’ gets no money.

Dharmika Parishad is a committee to improve the temple management for the benefit of pilgrims.

There are B-Grade temples with income between Rs five lakh and Rs 25 lakh from where five per cent of the gross income had been going to the Dharmika Parishad since 2003.

The Dharmika Parishad had been getting 10 per cent revenue from those temples whose gross income was above Rs 25 lakh since 2003.

“Now what we have done is we have made it free from paying to Dharmika Parishad if the income is up to Rs 10 lakh. We have made provisions to collect five per cent from temples whose gross income is between Rs 10 lakh and less than one crore. Ten per cent of the income will be collected from temples whose income is above Rs one crore. All this amount will reach the Dharmika Parishad,” Reddy said.

The Minister said there are 40,000 to 50,000 priests in the state whom the state government wants to help.

“If the money reaches Dharmika Parishad then we can provide them insurance cover. We want their families to get at least Rs five lakh if something happens to them. To pay the premium we need Rs seven crore to Rs eight crore,” he explained.

The Minister said the government wants to provide scholarships to children of temple priests, which would require Rs five crore to Rs six crore annually.

This entire amount will benefit the temple priests only, many of whom are in a poor condition.

In a post on ‘X,’ BJP state president B Y Vijayendra hit out at the government over the move and said, “Corrupt, inept #LootSarkaar with its penchant for anti-Hindu ideology in the guise of secularism, has cast its evil eyes on the temple revenues. Through the Hindu Religious Endowments amendment act, it is trying to siphon off donations as well as offerings from Hindu temples and religious institutions in order to fill its empty coffers.” The Shivamogga MLA said the government plans to gobble up 10 per cent of the temple revenue exceeding Rs one crore and five per cent of temple revenue below Rs five crore.

“This not only reflects the deplorable condition of this govt, but also shows its abject hate towards Hindu Dharma,” he charged.

Temple funds should be dedicatedly utilised for renovation of temples and to facilitate work beneficial to devotees, rather than diverting it for other purposes, which would be an injustice and betrayal of people’s religious beliefs, the BJP state chief said.

Vijayendra asked the government why only Hindu temples are targeted for revenue, leaving out other religions, is a question raised by millions of devotees.

“Instead of grabbing the devotees’ money, government can install “Donation Boxes” so that the concerned citizens can help this penniless govt boost its revenue as a Gesture of Goodwill,” he stated.

Government sources said the purpose behind the bill is to provide facilities and safety to pilgrims within the jurisdiction of Group ‘A’ temples.

A district level and state high-level committee will be constituted to scrutinise, review and submit the proposals regarding the construction and maintenance of buildings, roads and tunnels, electricity supply and maintenance, water supply and sanitation, construction of recreation centres and libraries to provide necessary facilities to pilgrims and to provide safety to pilgrims within the jurisdiction of Group “A” Temples, they added.

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