The severe mismanagement in the temples of Bharat ever since they were taken over by the secular government of Bharat can actually be pointed out as a continuation of British raj over Hindu religious institutions. One of the prime examples for such denuding of Hindu institutions from a particular geography, as well as people’s minds, can be seen at Jagannath Puri.
The administration of the temples were taken over by the secular government citing mismanagement. While the secular governments are given the rights to supervise and take measures for proper management of the secular aspects of the administration of the temples, they have no rights to interfere in or discontinue the ritualistic aspects or the charitable activities of the temples. The clear understanding of this issue can be obtained from the speech made by prominent lawyer Sri. J Sai Deepak over the importance of freeing temples from government control.
Recently, in a news report published at Oneindia, the chief of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration, Sri. Suresh Mohapatra said that the state government is planning to sell about 395 acres of land owned by the temple outside the state to create a maintenance corpus of about 1000 crore rupees. It must be noted that Puri, one of the Char Dhams is considered to be the place where Lord Vishnu eats food offered everyday by the devout Hindus.The Prasad of the temple is celebrated as Mahaprasad and considered as holy, which can never be impure. The level of callousness shown by the government towards Puri temple can be gauged by this one fact – no annadaana (free offering of food to the hungry) is seen within the great temple despite the temple being one of the biggest land owning institutions of the Bharat.
The report further said that the properties of the temple were subjected to serious encroachment. So, the welfare schemes of the temple have been converted as paid schemes just because the government machinery currently controlling the temple is incapable of proper maintenance of the lands owned by the temple. This raises the moral question of, “if the government comes into the temples citing mismanagement in administration shouldn’t it also move it if its incompetent to handle it?“
Further the question of, “how can the government decide to sell out the properties of the temple just because its inefficient in collecting proper rents?” for the daana (charity) of the devotees for social and religious purposes as per our scriptures is till the time the sun, the moon and the stars are present in the sky (as defined by the phrase, “aa surya chandra taara”). Even if we consider that one can provide for 300 kilograms of rice from the income of 1 acre of land (which is a bare minimum considering the market rates), we get around 18000 tonnes of rice. Puri temple currently cooks about 4 tonnes of rice everyday. Even considering that it cooks double, the amount of rice cooked is around 3000 tonnes. Isn’t this act of charging the poor devotees for prasad which was meant to feed them a classical case of looting a poor person to make up for the robbery of rich and powerful people?
The value of the land will only keep increasing with the time. So, selling it to create corpus funds to hide the inefficiency of government will only result in loss for the temple. And with the amount of mismanagement happening in the temple currently under the government machinery, one cannot rule out the question of the possibility of welfare schemes through this money reaching poor devotees as it was meant to. So, its high time people started questioning the punishment given to poor devotees for the inefficiency of the government in proper management of the temple.
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