Let them go on pilgrimages

A state of moral welfare

The government of Karnataka, we are informed has “taken a decision to introduce a scheme to conduct pilgrimage tours for poor people.” People below the poverty line (BPL) qualify. (But the last time the Karnataka government tried to compile a list of BPL families 91% of them applied.) According to the New Indian Express, “the government will provide bus, boarding, lodging and darshan facilities at Kollur Mookambika Temple, Sri Krishna Temple at Udupi, Dharmasthala, Soudatti and other places at a subsidised cost.”

Here is a government that takes care of citizens’ welfare—in this world and the next, in this life and the next—for a trivial Rs 10 crore (presumably, every year). That’s not all. Should you residents of Karnataka find it extremely difficult to get a place to stay in those strange, foreign climes of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state, relax in the knowledge that your government “has approved a plan for construction of a 500-room guesthouse and 25 cottages for VIPs at Tirumala in Tirupati.” This, for a trivial Rs 110 crore.

The floodgates have been opened wide.

Related Post: Andhra Pradesh’s state-subsidised tours to the holy land

28 thoughts on “Let them go on pilgrimages”

  1. The floodgates have already been open for decades. But they’ve been ‘secular’ gates, open only for muslims and more recently christians.

    Now heathen hindus also have their own gates.

    Yay!

  2. I am more interested in knowing from The Acorn about the sabre-rattling by North Korea, and what India’s allegedly anti-nuke loonie left brigade’s reaction to it is.

  3. @bala @AG,

    Dudes, your arguments are absurd? Because Haj subsidies exist and one communal socialist Congress chief minister in Andhra Pradesh decided to finance pilgrimages for Christians, it is somehow reasonable to extend the same to poor Hindus?

    If something is wrong, it’s wrong. I’m surprised you guys didn’t say “this is wrong, just like it is wrong for GOI to subsidise Haj or trips to the Holy Land”

    @Oldtimer,
    What’s North Korea got to do with anything? These are the real issues and I dare say the Acorn has been slipping up in covering them.

  4. >>What’s North Korea got to do with anything? These are the real issues and I dare say the Acorn has been slipping up in covering them.

    Nope, The Acorn has slipped up on this one badly, carried away by an idealistic zeal.

    Where’s the money I’m putting in the temple hundi going to, may I ask? If you don’t want the government to provide facilities to Hindu temple-goers, ask it to get out of the business of managing temples. Last I checked, churches and mosques manage their own revenues.

  5. I second to Udayan. Absolutely without any doubt!

    And please somebody make these BJP kids understand, Government’s job is not to see its citizens achieve nirvana, but to provide governance+growth+strategic leadership.

    BJP is disappointing me.

  6. Oldtimer,

    Where’s the money I’m putting in the temple hundi going to, may I ask? If you don’t want the government to provide facilities to Hindu temple-goers, ask it to get out of the business of managing temples.

    Indeed—the government must get its hand out of all hundis. It has no business to manage temples or churches or mosques or gurudwaras or fire temples or any other place of worship. It has no business to subsidise pilgrimages for Muslims, Christians, poor Hindus, rich Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists or anyone else. I say all this too, in my idealistic zeal.

  7. >>It has no business to subsidise pilgrimages for Muslims, Christians, poor Hindus

    I say that it HAS the business of taking care of pilgrims’ interests if it is appropriating their money.

    In days of yore, kings built temples, administered them and took good care of them. “Secular” governments usurped that role …. did they? They get the money, but what are they giving back to the community? The focus of your idealism — in criticizing the one government that has made a good start in putting temple funds to the purpose they are meant for by devotees — is wrong. I see the government’s move as a reform long due, not a retrograde step, though of course, the wider reform of getting out of temple administration altogether is more welcome.

  8. Oldtimer,

    I do not agree that people put money in temples to subsidise pilgrimages for their co-religionists. They could well have put that money to educate poor children, support healthcare, bring electricity and roads to villages and a number of other public welfare. Or, they might have just put money in the hundi to hoping it will wash off their sins, if not their guilt, if not their black money. We don’t know anything about their motivations to conclude, as you have, that paying for pilgrimages is putting “temple funds to the purpose they are meant for by devotees”.

    Moving further down the slippery slope, and opening the floodgates wider, is a backward move because, in the real world, it makes the wider reform of getting out of religious affairs more unlikely.

  9. @oldtimer

    Are you opposed to the state interfering in religious affairs (pilgrimages, temple administration, funds)? If you are, then how can support the Karnataka government’s subsidy plan?

    Or are you saying that the state should interfere in the affairs of all religions? In which case you have a case to say that there should subsidies for Hindu pilgrimages much the same way as there are for others.

    These are two mutually exclusive principles. You cannot believe in both simultaneously.

  10. Nitin,
    Looking at the comments, it appears that it is you who has opened the floodgates 🙂

    Anyway, I do not think that there is anything wrong with religious subsidies. How else can you opiate the masses?

    Frankly, I think BPL proles need vacations too. Why not throw some spirituality in with it? Talking about spirits… one can only wonder about the many liquor stores in Tirupathi. ‘Holy Water’ truly does flow in that town.

    As for your talk about privatization of temples, unlike utilities like electricity and gas which were not public goods but attempts are made to treat them so by PSUs, temples and other cultural assets are and should be public goods i.e. there should be no restriction whatsoever for the public to enjoy them. Creating a revenue models for public goods is an entirely different thing though.

    @Oldtimer
    Two wrongs do not make a right.

    A truly secular government would however be one in which there are no state policies what so ever which even mention the religion of a citizen. Reality is different though…

    PS: My responses to Nitin and Oldtimer might seem contradictory, but allowing free access to public goods is different from subsidy.

  11. >>They could well have put that money to educate poor children, support healthcare, bring electricity and roads to villages

    I hope you are not serious.

    >>We don’t know anything about their motivations to conclude, as you have, that paying for pilgrimages is putting “temple funds to the purpose they are meant for by devotees”.

    Well, having closely known a temple “dharmakarta”, and having watched, as a child, temple meetings, I know for certain that hundi-contributors expect their money to be spent for temple affairs. I concede to you though television and electricity were not widely available in the village in my late grandpa’s time; so it’s probable that devotees had no expectation that their temple would bring the joy of NDTV 24×7 to their homes.

  12. Oldtimer,

    Your personal experience, unfortunately, cannot be extrapolated to become basis for public policy. The fact is we don’t know enough about the motives to derive such conclusions.

  13. >>The fact is we don’t know enough about the motives to derive such conclusions.

    If you don’t know enough about the motives, you can’t argue in favor of spending temple funds on electricity either. These are not tax monies, you know. Which brings us to ..

    >>Your personal experience, unfortunately, cannot be extrapolated to become basis for public policy.

    Fine. Articulate a public policy for utilizing temple funds appropriated by governments.

  14. Oldtimer,

    If you don’t know enough about the motives, you can’t argue in favor of spending temple funds on electricity either.

    I’m not in any way arguing for the government to use temple funds in any way. My position has been that the government must not get involved in the religious business in any way. From my last years’ op-ed on Amarnath:


    Could anyone have blamed the Indian state if it had stayed out of managing religious shrines and pilgrimages? Here is a secular state that concerns itself with transfer of land to a religious institution which it manages. Here is a state that, among others, builds special airport terminals for Muslim pilgrims and accomodation on snow-capped mountains for Hindu ones. Getting the state out of religious affairs is generally a good idea. In the case of Jammu & Kashmir it is one of the most credible ways to take the wind out of the separatists’ sails.
    [link]

    These are not tax monies, you know.

    Exactly. Precisely why the government lacks the legitimacy to use these funds. Let the temple authorities use it for whatever purpose, including, if they so choose, financing pilgrimages.

    Articulate a public policy for utilizing temple funds appropriated by governments.

    Hope the above is clear enough.

  15. > The answer is to close them, not open them wider.

    Of course it is! The problem is how? No pseudo-secular ever will, and anyone else who does try will be labeled ‘muslim-hater’.

    The best option: offer it to hindus as well, till the bill for the exercise becomes too much to bear (financially). Then, do reforms in classic indian style (i.e. with your backs to the wall) and stop the nonsense once and for all.

  16. I agree that govt job is not to manage temples. And as far as I understand, the present karnataka govt is indeed interested in handing over temple to various local bodies. I heard that they decided to hand over the Gokarna temple to some Math. Isn’t that true ?

  17. @AG,

    Romantic as that sounds, it doesn’t happen that way in the real world. There is just an endless sinking into deeper and deeper holes. The example of reservations tells you what happens.

    Besides, it is unconvincing to blame pseudoseculars for something that the BJP is also doing. I don’t blame the BJP for doing what everyone is doing because it is no different. But it disproves your thesis that reforms will happen one fine day in the future.

  18. IMO this is just the logical culmination of the policy of entitlements. Look at reservations, for example. It’s interesting that we have more “backward” communities now than 60 years ago – despite significant improvements in income levels, literacy, healthcare etc.

    When it comes to pilgrimages, the Congress wants to pamper its “important” voters – Muslims and Christians – and the BJP now wants to do the same for Hindus.

    Cynical as it might seem, I see no easy solution in sight. Game theoretic equilibrium, anybody? 😉

  19. Whats the big deal if the Karnataka Govt is spending some money on the Hindus? Its just hindu money, coming back to hindus. This can be done till one day organizations like savetemples.org can finally get rid of government control of hindu temples. Till then this is a great step. It’s better then the congressis that treat hindus like second class citizens. Better to be appeased then be discriminated against.

  20. Nitin,

    I dont know about other state governments, but the hundi collections in temples administered by the Murzai Department goes directly to the Karnataka Government Treasury.

    Till date, temples have been milked while there seemed to be no returns. The only thing the present govt seems to be doing is passing on the money back to the public in a way that may not please everyone, but you can’t please everyone, can you?

    Yes, Governments have to be kept out of administration of temples, but then, if any party raises that issue, it becomes communal and hence status quo remains.

    Temples, Churches, Masjids have all become pure money making machines. Hence the abundance 🙂

  21. What is the big deal? Money lawfully looted from temples is finally being spent to improve facilities available there,

    You conveniently forget that revenue from most major temples end up in Government kitty.

    At-least now, the the donations of devotees are being used for what it was given in the first place – religious activity!

    I support the call for governments to stop plundering temples. Where that objective cannot be achieved, the collected money should only be used for development of temples and Hindu religious activity, and NOT for subsidizing Mecca trips.

    Besides, BJP government in Karnataka has many other initiatives that deserve INI’s focus, such as procuring land banks in under-developed areas and making them suitable for industrial use. When industries go around looking to set-up their factories, Karnataka already has zones developed and waiting for them! The benefit from multiplier effect when industries start cropping up in those zones go to under-developed areas around them. Capitalism at its best!

    BJP government is also offering subsidies for companies that base their IT/ITES activities out of rural areas. I always wondered why IT / ITES companies were sitting in expensive cities when all they need to sustain their activity is office space and connectivity, which these days can be had anywhere provided one has the scale. Good to see Karnataka govt. has also realized the same and is creating a environment for companies to seriously consider expanding into rural areas. Does this not deserve a blog post? (Contrast above two approaches for developing rural areas with that of NREGA!)

  22. Could someone throw some light on how the state governments came to own – in the property rights sense – the temples and the temple lands? Who owned them before and when were they expropriated? Along with the abolition of the princely states?

    Who own(s) the churches, the gurudwaras, and the mosques? Governments again? Whatever happened to Praful Goradia’s plea in the Supreme Court against the Haj Committee Act?

    Thanks.

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