With the near two-month lockdown
taking a toll on their meagre revenue, many small temples in Tamil Nadu are seeking a waiver of power bills, as demands are also being made for enhanced compensation for village priests and workers allegedly not paid salaries during this period.
Over 8,000 temples where the "oru kala puja" (single puja a day) is performed and also temples with low earnings across the state have sought the government to waive the power bills.
Shrines are not mere places of worship but support many dependent on them for a livelihood, including flower sellers, according to the Tamil Nadu Village Temple Priests Association.
"Though they may not hog the attention just as the industries and hospitality sectors which have reported losses, temples nevertheless not only keep up the faith of the devout but also promote sustainable income generation activities around them," said P Vasu, state president of Tamil Nadu Village Temple Priests Association.
Temples play a major role in drawing the religious and heritage tourists to the state, he said.
Not just the temple priests and staff but also flower vendors or archana plate sellers dependent on the shrines for their livelihood are experiencing the worst economic crisis as a fallout of the lockdown, enforced by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus, he said.
Shrines across Tamil Nadu have been closed for darshan since March 24 after the government clamped the lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Only priests have been performing pujas and other related services during the lockdown.
The said priests' body has petitioned the government to provide enhanced relief to them and temple staff, besides pressing it to waive the power bills of low income temples.
Members of the Village Temple Priests Welfare Board alone account for over 65,000 and they all should be provided enhanced COVID-19 relief, the association has urged.
While a government relief of Rs 1,000 has been provided to the village priests also, it has, however, not been uniformly distributed and therefore all should be covered, Vasu said.
He also sought an enhanced relief on account of the extension of the lockdown till May 31 when temples will remain closed.
When contacted, a senior official of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) department, which administers temples in the state, said orders were awaited from the government over providing relief.
Already the department had provided Rs 1,000 as relief to temple priests, staff and a majority of beneficiaries from the funds of the high income generating temples in the state.
"The village temple priests will also be covered soon," he added.
Asked about the demand for waiver of power bills for small temples, he said the government had to take a call on the matter.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)