BANGALORE ~ Faced with the prospect of a drought, the Karnataka government has granted Rs 17 crore to temples to perform rituals to appease sundry rain gods.
In his first gift to the people, the newly installed Chief Minister, Jagadish Shettar, an atheist, last week approved a sum of Rs 5,000 each to 34,000 temples. “The pujas will be held on 27 July and 3 August as soon as the money is released,’’ says muzrai minister Kota Srinivas Poojary (muzrai is a government department that runs temples).
The BJP government has drawn flak since the money could have been used in better ways, including providing relief to the drought affected. The grant has also divided the opposition. HD Revanna, son of former PM and JD-S honcho HD Deve Gowda, supported the move. But the Congress admonished the government for using scarce resources to fund “bizarre and unconstitutional acts’’.
A priest at Gali Anjaneya Temple in Bangalore, Rudraksha Swamy, has no complaints with state sponsorship. “We conduct this puja every year, whether there is drought or not. Sometimes, we use our own resources and sometimes private individuals sponsor it. We have no qualms in accepting a small puja grant from the government.’’ The pujas that will be performed are varuna mantra, jalabhishekha and parjanya japas, he says.
Father Ambrose Pinto, former principal of a leading private college in Bangalore, has questioned the government’s need to fund rain rituals. “Let politicians pay out of their own pockets,’’ he says. Pinto says that India is a secular state and the goal of secularism is to eliminate religion from the public realm.
Earlier too, the state’s budget had been criticised for allotting over Rs 200 crore over three years to various maths run by religious sub-groups. Equally jarring was the overzealousness of the previous muzrai minister, SN Krishnaih Shetty, who had bought and distributed ganga jal and Tirupati ladoos to citizens for voting for the BJP, a gimmick that cost the exchequer over Rs 5 crore.▪