Karnataka government withdraws order stopping grants to temples after uproar

The Muzrai Department commissioner issued order all deputy commissioners to halt grants being provided to temples in the state.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Aug 18, 2023 | 4:45 PM Updated Aug 18, 2023 | 4:45 PM

Karnataka Congress Government Muzrai Hindu Temples

The Karnataka government withdrew the Muzrai Department commissioner’s order to discontinue the allocation of grants to all temples under the department on Friday, 18 August.

Commissioner (Temple) of Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department aka Muzrai Department, H Basavarajendra, ordered all deputy commissioners to stop grants to temples. The order, issued on Thursday, became controversial with several citizens and Opposition party leaders criticising the move.

Condemning the order, the BJP warned of launching massive protests and demanded that the government withdraw it immediately.

“It is evident that there is opposition to the government’s temple renovation efforts. This government has provided sufficient funding for the development of minority communities,” BJP state general secretary and MLC N Ravikumar viewed the move as part of appeasement politics.

As the criticism mounted, the Minister for Transport and Muzrai, Ramalinga Reddy, instructed the department to withdraw its order with immediate effect.

Also read: No development funds this year, Dy CM Shivakumar tells MLAs

What did the order say?

Earlier, the commissioner’s order had gone viral on social media.

“The Department of Religious Endowments indicated that if the temple renovation work has not been commenced, the funds should not be released,” the order read.

“If administrative approval for a 50 percent of fund allocation is granted, it should be immediately halted and a recommendation to deny the grant should be made. In the case of proposed administrative approval for the grant, the process of approval should be blocked,” Basavarajendra told the assistant commissioners.

According to the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department, “A total of 34,563 temples are under the Muzrai Department. Of the total temples, 201 temples are under Category A — whose gross annual income exceeds ₹25 lakh, and 139 temples are under Category B — whose gross income exceeds ₹5 lakh. There are 34,223 temples under Category C in the state.”

Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts have 45 and 30 temples under Category A, respectively, and 15 and 13 temples under Category B. Bengaluru has 21 and 15 temples under A and B categories.

Dakshina Kannada’s Kukke Subramanya Temple and Mysuru’s Chamundeshwari Temple fall under Category A.

The commissioner was unavailable for comments.

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Minister plays Hindu card

Minister Ramalinga Reddy admitted that the Muzrai commissioner had issued the “wrong” order. “I had sought information about an ongoing work order from the commissioner, but he got confused and issued the wrong circular,” he told reporters.

“We have withdrawn that order. The development works in all the temples will continue. I wish to provide more funds to temples than the BJP. We are Hindus, and we are following Hindu rituals and traditions. The BJP is fake Hindu,” the minister said.

Stating that he had sought detailed information on the ongoing works in temples, Reddy said: “I, along with Muzrai Department principal secretary, held a review meeting on the budget recently. The grants allocated in the budget have been released.”

“At the meeting, I sought information about the grants that were released to temples by the previous government, and how much more funds are required for the ongoing works. I also sought the details of grant allocation,” the minister said, adding that he had set a 30 August deadline for submitting the details.

“I admit that issuing such an order was wrong. We will continue to provide more funds for the development and rejuvenation of the temples than the BJP,” Ramalinga Reddy further said.

It may be noted that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah recently claimed that the revenue of temples has increased ever since the Shakti scheme was launched. He said lakhs of women were utilising the scheme to travel to pilgrim centres across Karnataka.

The scheme allows women free travel on non-premium government-run buses across the state.

Also read: Belagavi trifurcation demand resurfaces amid political pressure

BJP hits out at ‘anti-Hindu’ government

Earlier, BJP leaders condemned the state government’s move to discontinue grants to temples and warned of launching protests.

“I condemn the state government’s decision to halt grants to all temples. These kinds of decisions will not bring good to the government,” Former Muzrai minister and Nipani MLA Shashikala Jolle told reporters.

“The government should not act differently when it comes to temples. Our government had given grants for the development of all temples,” he said.

“We could not release the remaining grants due to the Assembly elections. This government has the responsibility to release those funds and should engage in politics over it. If the government fails to revoke its order, we will launch a massive protest,” Jolle said.

Vijayapura MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal termed the government anti-Hindu. “Siddaramaiah’s anti-Hindu stance is being proved each passing day. The government has given crores of rupees to Waqf and Minorities Development,” he tweeted.

He also demanded the immediate release of grants to all temples.