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BJP opposes K'taka Bill to open Common Pool Fund, accuses CM of stealing from temples

BJP opposes Ktaka Bill to open Common Pool Fund, accuses CM of stealing from temples

Bengaluru: The Opposition BJP has criticised legislation that proposes a Common Pool Fund under the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department to promote religious activities in Karnataka, accusing the government of taking the wealth of the state's rich temples.

The Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments (Amendment) Bill passed in the Assembly on Wednesday. The BJP stepped up its attack on the Bill, which is set to be tabled in the Legislative Council, where coalition partners BJP and JD(S) have a majority, on Thursday.

Muzrai minister Ramalinga Reddy, who introduced the amendments, stated in the Assembly that the fund will be utilised to offer temple facilities, insurance coverage, and a death relief fund for archaks (temple priests), as well as scholarships to youngsters from the families of over 40,000 archaks, Indian Express reported.

R Ashok, Leader of the Opposition, claimed that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was "stealing from the collection boxes of temples" and that the administration intended to collect a "10% commission from the income of temples."

The Muzrai Department oversees over 35,000 temples, with 205 earning more than Rs 25 lakh per year classified as Group A, 193 earning between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 25 lakh classified as Group B, and approximately 34,000 earning less than Rs 5 lakh classified as Group C.

To date, Group A temples contributed 10% of the revenue collected by collecting boxes to a Central Fund, while Group B contributed 5%. There were no contributions from Group C temples.

According to the amendment, temples with profits over Rs 1 crore must contribute 10% to the Common Pool Fund, while temples with revenue ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore should contribute 5%. According to Reddy, temples with incomes of less than Rs 10 lakh will not be required to contribute anything.

The funds will be administered by Rajya Dharmika Parishat and utilised to provide aid largely to Category C temples, as well as welfare measures for the families of archaks and other temple personnel, he stated.

The state and district high-level committees were also established to assess and submit plans for facilities at Group A temples.

The bill was passed with little opposition in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday. Later in the evening, BJP state president B Y Vijayendra tweeted, accusing the Congress government of "turning its evil eye" to Hindu temple revenues in order to fund its operations.

“The amendments allow the government to collect 10 per cent of revenues from temples with incomes of Rs one crore or more… The question from crores of devotees is why was the government eyeing the incomes of Hindu temples when it is not interested in the revenue of other religions,” he said.

Reddy responded, claiming that the original reforms passed by the Assembly on Wednesday had been in place since 2001 but had not been implemented.

“Did your BJP government neglect its responsibilities between 2008 and 2013, as well as from 2019 to 2023? It seems they turned a blind eye to the revenues of Hindu religious institutions and charitable endowments, despite the existence of acts or bills in place since 2001,” he said.

Reddy predicted that such a tactic of religious hyperbole for political benefit would fail in Karnataka, as it did in the 2023 elections.

Vijayendra, who maintained his salvo against the state administration, told the media that rather than taking money from temples, “the government should keep a collection box in front of Vidhana Soudha with a sign saying ‘We cannot run the government and have a financial problem’.”

He alleged that it is unfortunate that the government has lowered itself to such a level.

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TAGS:KarnatakaBJPCommon Pool Fund
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