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Autonomy for temples, more goshalas — Karnataka CM Bommai’s 1st budget delivers BJP promises

Freeing temples from state control was 2018 poll promise of BJP, pet project for RSS. Budget Friday also allocated funds to develop Anjanadri hills, thought to be Hanuman’s birthplace.

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Bengaluru: In his first ever budget Friday, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai announced that Hindu temples currently under the state government’s control will be given autonomy.

This was among a slew of measures in line with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ideological commitments, which also included allocations to expand and support goshalas (cow shelters) in the state, and to develop the Anjanadri hills — believed to be Hanuman’s birthplace.

By announcing autonomy for temples, Bommai inches towards fulfilling one of the BJP’s 2018 poll promises, with Karnataka heading into elections next year.

“There is a long-pending demand to do away with government control on the temples. By considering these demands of devotees, autonomy will be given to temples coming under the purview of the endowments department. Necessary legal action will be taken to delegate the discretion of developmental works to the temples,” Bommai said in his budget speech Friday.

The official announcement comes after Bommai assured BJP leaders and cadres in December during a meeting of the party’s state executive that temples would be freed from government control.  

But this met with opposition from Congress leaders at the time, with state Congress chief D.K. Shivakumar deeming it a historic blunder.

Giving temples autonomy is also a pet project of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Bommai’s statement in December came barely two months after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in his annual Vjayadashami speech at Reshimbagh in Nagpur spoke about the need to give control of temples to ‘Hindus’.  

“Operating rights of temples must be handed over to Hindus and their wealth should be utilised for the welfare of the Hindu community only,” Bhagwat was quoted as saying. The ‘Free Hindu Temples’ slogan was also a poll pitch for the BJP in the 2021 Tamil Nadu assembly election.

Also read: BJP vowed ‘justice for Hindutva worker murders’ in Karnataka. 3 yrs on, here’s where cases stand

34,563 temples, institutions under Muzrai dept

Currently, 34,563 Hindu temples and institutions in Karnataka are administered by the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments, or Muzrai, department.

The Muzrai department in Karnataka is responsible for the administration, development, renovation, and construction of temples. It pays salaries to temple priests and staff, approves budgets, maintains properties, seeks accountability, and conducts audits. 

Of the 34,563 temples under the department, 207 are in the ‘A’ category, with annual incomes exceeding Rs 25 lakh. 139 are in the  ‘B’ category, with incomes between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 25 lakh, and 34,217 temples are in the ‘C’ category, with annual incomes under Rs 5 lakh.

Last month, the Karnataka government introduced an Integrated Temple Management System (ITMS) as a single-window platform for queries, information and services from all registered temples under the Muzrai department. 

Bommai in February also flagged off a project under the name ‘Daiva Sankalpa’ for the development of category ‘A’ temples at an estimated cost of Rs 1,140 crore.

Rs. 50 crore for goshalas, Rs. 100 crore to develop Anjanadri hills

Bommai also announced a slew of other measures in line with the ideological commitments of the BJP. 

He said that the BJP government had given greater importance to the “preservation of cattle resources”, adding that the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020, had been implemented last year.  

For effective implementation of this Act, the number of goshalas will be increased from the present 31 to 100. For this purpose, Rs. 50 crore will be provided,” Bommai said in his budget speech.

The government is yet to complete the construction of goshalas in each district as envisioned in the anti-cattle-slaughter law, and the promise to implement the legislation comes even as stakeholders, including farmers, have petitioned the Karnataka High Court against it.

In yet another move towards cow protection, Bommai announced a new scheme — the  Punyakoti Dattu Yojane (Punyakoti adoption scheme) — to encourage the public, and private institutions, to adopt cows in the goshalas by paying Rs. 11,000 annually.

Bommai has also proposed setting up a ‘Gomatha Sahakara Sangha’ to market cow produce. A research cell would be set up at the Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University in Bidar for the development of certification and technical aspects of cow produce.

The budget has also promised financial assistance for the conversion of waste generated in goshalas.

Another assurance that Bommai had made at the BJP executive meeting in December found mention in the state budget. Rs 100 crore, Bommai said Friday, will be allocated for the development of the Anjanadri hills in Koppal — believed to be the birthplace of Hanuman.

“On the lines of the Rama temple in Ayodhya, we will develop the Anjanadri hills, which is the birthplace of Rama’s devotee and confidante Hanuman,” Bommai had told his cadres in December.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: Siddaramaiah & DK Shivakumar back to tussling, but Karnataka Congress leaders say ‘all is well’


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