Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) P.K. Sekar Babu on Wednesday distributed COVID-19 relief kits to 219 temple priests in Chennai circle at an event at the wedding Hall managed by the Kapaleeswarar temple.
The kits consisted of ₹4,000 each and 15 provision items. These were given to priests who do not draw salaries. Around 12,900 priests in temples managed by the HR and CE have been identified throughout the State under the scheme. Member of Parliament Thamizhachi Thangapandian was also present on the occasion.
However, a section of priests who get salaries have urged to the government to grant some relief to them too. “We usually get salaries of ₹2,000 – ₹5,000, which is hardly enough to cover our expenses. Many temples have not been able to pay salaries since they have remained closed and there has been no cash flow to hundials. In some temples, trustees pooled in from their personal funds and paid portions of salaries for sometime. But since this lockdown has been on for over a year, not many have even personal funds to dole out," said a priest.
In one temple, the trustee died and since there is no one else to sign the payment cheques, the salaries have been stopped. The death of trustees has also led to non-payment of salaries to other staff as well. “Priests and nagaswaram musicians used to manage with the small income by supplementing it with what they got from weddings and other ceremonies and pujas at homes. But now all that had been stopped," said a retired official of the department.
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