Bengaluru: The ruling BJP in Karnataka is taking steps to bring accountability in the management of temples in the State. The government has decided to act tough against temple managements and initiate legal proceedings if they do not fall in line as far as bringing transparency is concerned.
After making an announcement in this regard, Minister of the Muzarai department Shashikala Jolle issued a circular giving a deadline to the powerful and influential temple authorities in the State.
The Assistant Commissioner of the Muzarai department has been asked to visit at least three temples a week, conduct verification of accounts and submit reports. The officers have also been instructed to file a monthly report on accounts’ submission by the temple authorities.
The exercise has been taken up to ensure transparency in the affairs of temples. The department has warned the officers of stern action in case of dereliction of duty in this regard.
As per the records of the Muzarai department, there are 207 ‘A’ grade temples with an annual income of more than Rs. 25 lakh. Likewise, there are 139 ‘B’ grade temples which have an income of between Rs. 5 lakh to Rs. 24.99 lakh. These ‘A’ and ‘B’ grade temples are required to submit accounts every year as per the law.
Only four temples in the State – Chamundeshwari Temple of Mysuru, Yediyur Siddhalingeshwara Temple, Ghati Subramanya temple and Banashankari temple of Bengaluru – are submitting audit reports every year. Barring these four temples, other cash rich temples and their managements who are generating huge incomes through commercial activities and commercial complexes have not bothered to submit accounts.
Successive Congress governments and the so called secular leaders have not dared to touch upon the subject of bringing transparency in temple management and hold powerful temple managements responsible for accounts. Even the Siddaramaiah government, branded as anti-Hindu by the Bharatiya Janata Party, did not dare to address the issue.
Surprisingly, the ruling BJP is all set to take up the sensitive issue as each temple has lakhs of devotees and there is a possibility that any action against the temple authorities would anger them. Though Taluk and Zilla Panchayat elections are due and the party is gearing up for the 2023 assembly elections, the Muzarai department seems determined to ensure transparency in the affairs of the temples.
Speaking to IANS, Minister for Muzarai, Hajj and Wakf Shashikala Jolle explained that since times immemorial the people have emotional bonds with temples. More than 35,000 temples in the State have their own properties. Many properties have been lost. The temple authorities have built commercial complexes and shops in the premises and properties of the temples.
“It has come to our notice that temple properties are encroached, those who have taken properties on lease are not returning them and not paying rent. So, a survey has to be conducted and the properties of the temples have to be declared,” Jolle said.
The survey will be taken up in coordination with the revenue department and talks have been initiated with the Revenue Minister. “I have already discussed the matter with the Chief Minister and it is about bringing transparency in temple accounts and preservation of properties of temples,” she added.
There should be accountability for the money collected from devotees. Whenever devotees’ money is being spent there should be transparency. It has come to our notice that many temple managements have not submitted audit reports since 100 to 15 years, she said.
Jolle stated that accountability and transparency have to be maintained and with this intention directions have been given to temple authorities to submit audit reports by January 20, 2022.
In case of non-compliance, the Muzarai department will initiate legal action against the temple authorities under the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act and Rules.
Siddalnga Prabhu, member of the Rajya Dharmika Parishat, told IANS that the step is very much required. The Muzarai department would get 10 per cent of the income and it will be utilized for the renovation of ‘C’ grade temples across the state. Besides, it is desirable to have transparency in temple accounts.
There are 1.80 lakh temples in Karnataka among which 35,500 temples come under the Muzarai department. Former Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa had released Rs. 2,000 crore for the Muzarai department. Present Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is also releasing funds for the development of temples. There is a master plan and detailed project report on maintaining hygiene in temples across the State, he stated.