In yet another measure to appease Christians, the Dravidian model of the DMK government led by MK Stalin has set up a welfare board. The proposed welfare board is being set up to help, according to the Government, village catechists ( untrained in theology), fully trained catechists, Torchbearers, altar- boys, priests, Baptizers, choral singers in Churches, and caretakers of cemeteries, hospices, destitute homes, orphanages, social workers in leprosy homes, physically challenged persons and rehabilitation homes as they are not getting monthly salaries. They are being paid a paltry sum collected from the offerings in the collection basket at Mass, an annual special donation or one-tenth of their monthly earnings of parish members and parish money.
The Minority welfare department has sent a proposal to set up a welfare board for them. Considering this, the DMK government has set up this board. The director of the Minority welfare department will be its member secretary. The government has also directed all the cash assistance given to Ulema and employees welfare board members to be extended to the newly set up welfare board members.
During 2020-21, the performance report says “Ulema and employees welfare board was formed for the upliftment of the educational and economic status of the Aalims, Pesh-Imams, Arabic Teachers, Mothinars, Bilal, and other employees working in Mosques and Madrasas and Mujawars and other employees working in Darghas, Ashurkhanas, Burial grounds, Thaikas, Muslim orphanages. (G.O.(Ms) No.74, BC,MBC & MW Dept, Dt. 24.8.2009). So far, 4842 Members have been enrolled in the board and assistance to the tune of Rs.139.15lakh have been sanctioned to 3,771 members and their families.
The Government introduced a scheme of providing financial assistance of Rs.20,000 each to 500 beneficiaries every year to undertake the Jerusalem pilgrimage to Israel by all sections of Christians in Tamil Nadu in 2011-2012. From the year 2018- to 2019, the number of beneficiaries has been enhanced from 500 to 600, including 50 Nuns/Sisters permitted to undertake the pilgrimage. (G.O. (MS) No.50, BC, MBC & MW Dept (MWRU), Dt. 31.8.18) The Government introduced a scheme of providing financial assistance for the repair and renovation of Christian churches in Tamil Nadu during the year 2016-17. The “Madarasa Modernization Programme” has been modified as Infrastructure Development of Minority Institutions (IDMI), Scholarship for Meritorious Students from Minority Communities. Also, there is a scheme to renovate and repair churches in the state. Christian Women Aid Societies have been formed in all district headquarters headed by the District Collector as Ex-officio Chairman to assist the poor, needy, and aged Christian women. Also, for assisting the poor, destitute widow and aged Muslim women, Muslim women aid societies”.
While the Government, through its HR and CE department, uses income derived from various sources like donations, rent from properties, darshan and other fees only to pay for its employees, allowances, luxury cars for them and leaving the temple priests, cooks, nadaswaram vidwans, garland makers with a paltry salary. In some temples, there is no such system. Villager temple poojaris are dependent on money offered by devotees when they visit the temple for darshan.
In January this year, the Government announced an enhanced pension amount to eligible priests who retired after serving in various temples, including those managed by the HR and CE department.
About 1,804 retired village temple priests to get a pension of Rs 4 000 (as against Rs 3,000 in the past) each besides 100 Archakars, Odhuvars, Vedaparayanars, Arayars, Divya Prabandham reciters and musicians would receive a monthly pension of Rs 3,000 (as against Rs 1,000 in the past).
Senior Journalist Ganesan questions, “are there any details for the donations received, compulsory one tenth of income from church members? Are these not enough to pay for their people working in churches and others? Did the Government ever raise these questions with them? Why doesn’t it take over the churches and handle the income in a proper manner to make a regular salary? “
He said the Modi government (through the e-shram portal) gives benefits for unorganized sector employees. Temple priests, poojaris , and temple workers have enrolled in that. Why should there be a separate board for Christians? Why did the DMK government spend taxpayer money directly on one section that did not offer a single pie to government coffers like Muslims? Whereas the Government, through HR and CE, takes all the money that comes from the temple and does not use it for renovation, maintenance and to pay temple employees like priests, cooks, hairdressers, and bearers of temple vahanas, musicians etc. Does the Government know these? Will the HR and CE moot a board for Hindu temple employees? They are not given even minimum wages as per labour laws. Why are we not treating all equally? This is highly condemnable”.
He also points out that churches, mosques, and Dargahs never share a single pie with the Government and why the minority welfare department lavishly on Muslims and Christians. Taking all income from temples, rents, donations, including interests from bank deposits and cripples temple administration with various restrictions. It is a clear case of robbing Peter to pay Paul ( here Peter means Hindus) and like rubbing Chunam (lime) in one eye and butter in the other eye. The attempt to ban Pattana Pravesam of Dharmapuri mutt seer is a classic example of how it treats Hindus and their rituals. When will the slavery life end for Hindus?”.