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Tamil Nadu: Madras HC intervenes, govt withdraws order asking only Hindu temples to pay Rs 10 crores to CM’s Coronavirus relief fund

The Tamil Nadu government had asked 47 Hindu temples to transfer Rs 10 crores to the CM's Relief Fund to fight Chinese coronavirus while ordering the distribution of 5,450 tonnes of free rice to over 2,985 Mosques.

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department of Tamil Nadu on May 4 took back its order dated April 22 that had asked Hindu temples to transfer Rs 10 crores to the State to the Chief Minister’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. This order came after the Madras High Court found it ‘not legally tenable. While withdrawing the order, the HR&CE Department said that it was withdrawing the earlier order for ‘administrative reasons’.

While taking up three petitions against the 22 April HR&CE order for hearing, Madras High Court’s public interest litigation (PIL) bench comprising Justices Vineet Kothari and Pushpa Sathyanarayana observed that the order was ‘untenable’.

The three people who had filed the petition against the HR&CE circular were TR Ramesh, President, Hindu Temple Worshippers Society, Tamil daily Dinamalar editor RR Gopaljee and one other person. Maintaining that it has found merit in the argument of the counsel of the three petitioners, the HC bench adjourned the matter to May 8 and directed M Karthikeyan, counsel for the HR&CE department, to produce the relevant order passed by the Commissioner of the department, withdrawing the circular.

“In the meanwhile, the department shall not act upon the circular, against the temples included in the said circular,” the bench said.

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The Tamil Nadu government, in turn, on Monday, informed the Madras High Court that it has decided to stop a move of utilizing surplus funds lying with the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department for COVID-19 mitigation efforts and also to withdraw the circular in this regard.

TN govt withdraws direction to 47 temples to give Rs 10 crore of surplus income to CM relief fund
TN govt withdraws direction to 47 temples to give Rs 10 crore of surplus income to CM relief fund

47 temples have to pay rupees 10 crores: Tamil Nadu government order

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Dept (HR & CE) of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government in Tamil Nadu had directed 47 temples to give Rs 10 crore of surplus funds to CM relief fund.

Tamil Nadu govt order

HR&CE Principal Secretary K Panindra Reddy had directed all officials working under him in 47 temples including Madurai, Palani, Thiruchendur, Tiruttani, Thiruvannamalai, Rameswaram, Mylapore, and others to contribute Rs 35 lakhs each from the surplus funds towards feeding the poor due to lockdown. Other temples have been directed to give an amount ranging from Rs 15 lakhs to 25 lakhs. All 47 temples were ordered to transfer the surplus fund of 10 crores to CM Corona Relief fund.

This move had come under severe criticism as questions were raised on Edappadi K Palaniswami government’s prejudice against Hindus’. Dissent grew as people criticised the government for not demanding the same from the Christian and Muslim institutions, which were receiving government grants yearly.

Gives free rice to Mosques, but asks Hindu Temples to pay 10 crores

As part of its appeasement politics, the ruling AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu had ordered the distribution of 5,450 tonnes of free rice to 2,985 mosques of the state on April 16 in the month of Ramzan, so that those who were keeping Rojas would not suffer. This rice at Rs 21/kg will cost the Tamil Nadu government little over Rs 11 crore.

Earlier the Madras High Court had rejected the petition, refusing to interfere with the Tamil Nadu government order to distribute free rice to mosques in the month of Ramzan.

At the beginning of the festival of Ramzan, the Tamil Nadu state government announced a major benefit to Muslims. The Tamil Nadu government had announced that 5,450 tonnes of rice would be given to 2,895 mosques this year for preparing porridge.

Unlike Muslims, Hindus don’t get anything in festivals

No similar help or plan is given to prepare offerings to the village deities of Hindus during Chaitra and other months. The Tamil Nadu government collects more than Rs 3000 crore per year from Hindu temples through Hundi collection, offerings, darshan tickets, special program fees, etc., while only Rs 4-6 crores are given for maintenance. Rest 2,995 crore rupees remain with the government.

At the same time, Srivilliputhur Vaishnavit Math Chief Sadgopa Ramanuj Jiyar urged the Tamil Nadu government to spend the temple money to give to the priests and servants. Dr. Krishnaswamy, the head of Puthia Tamizhagam has appealed to the CM to refund the amount of Rs 10 Crores received from the temples.

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