Priests seek salary on par with government staff

Priests seek salary on par with government staff
Highlights

With lengthy procedures and too many knots created by the government, thousands of priests (archakas) are still far away from getting monthly salaries online on par with government employees. Though the temples have been registering good revenues, the state government has not decided to bring the temple priests in to payrolls.

Visakhapatnam: With lengthy procedures and too many knots created by the government, thousands of priests (archakas) are still far away from getting monthly salaries online on par with government employees. Though the temples have been registering good revenues, the state government has not decided to bring the temple priests in to payrolls.

Highlights:

  • Total number of Temples: 26,800.
  • Total number of archakas in notified temples: 8,000
  • Other temples paying honorarium and allowing them to take plate collections.
  • Archakas covered with PRC: 520.

Instead of settling the long pending issue, the endowments department, which is the custodian of the temples in the state, is now singing a new song and making the issue more complicated.

After assessing revenues and assets, the government categorised temples based on income and has been paying good salaries to priests of high revenue earning temples. However, the temples which have less income are not paying the salaries to priests.

Earlier, the priests used to depend on the plate collections. However, the state government banned the plate collections and promoted hundi collections only. With priests approaching Supreme Court and the Apex Court directed the government to pay salaries to priests as they banned the plate collections.

However, the government has given a new definition for priests. It said that they cannot be considered as government employees and expressed its helplessness to offer salaries as per the PRC.

“Some officials in the department are misguiding the government to implement the GO 65 A for pay fixation to priests.
According to the Supreme Court orders, the government should pay salaries on par with the government employees.

The commissioner of endowments not even looking at the Apex Court orders. Though large number of temple priests are agitation for the past one month, the government not even invited them to discuss the issue. To divert the issue, the officials are now saying some private temple priests are agitating and the notified temple priests are not agitating, which is very wrong,” Navyandhra Pradesh Archaka Samkshema Sangham chief convenor K Murali Krishna lamented.

Except a very few, thousands of priests in the state are under severe financial crisis. The banks and other financial institutions are not giving loans to the Archakas. The government should pay salaries on par with government employees, without link up the issue with temple revenue, sangham convenor A Srinivasa Deekshithulu demanded.

Responding to allegations, endowments commissioner YV Anuradha says, “After the plate collections are banned, the government has set up a fund for the welfare of priests in the name of Archakas and Other Employees Welfare Fund.
We cannot treat priests as government employees, hence not possible to pay salaries through treasury. However, we are
ensuring Rs 10,000 as consolidated pay in the cities and Rs 5,000 in the rural areas. At present we are giving consolidated salaries to 1,160 archakas.”

By VKL Gayatri

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