In a move, which political experts say has been undertaken to counter BJP’s Hindutva agenda, the Uttar Pradesh government has sanctioned Rs 5.50 crore for beautification of Kashi Vishwanath temple in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi.
Also, to streamline the management of the temple, it has decided to regularise the services of its 40 member staff that include priests and other employees involved in handling the daily affairs.
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The move is seen as another attempt by Akhilesh Yadav to fortify his chances for a second term when the state goes to polls in 2017. Earlier, the SP government had launched several other schemes to counter the BJP’s “Hindutva” push. These include state-sponsored pilgrimage of Hindus, development of Hindu religious sites and temples, planting of holy Parijat trees on the 84-Kosi Yatra route in Ayodhya, laying of foundation stone of the world’s tallest temple in Mathura, bhajan sandhya amphitheatre for pilgrims in Ayodhya and installation of Rudra Kund in Mathura.
In this series, major beautification work will be undertaken inside the Vishwanath Temple where the old flooring will be replaced with granite. A new concealed electric wiring will be laid and the drainage system will also be renovated to avoid water logging.
“The whole project will cost nearly Rs 5.50 crore. Chief Minuster Akhilesh Yadav has already given his sanction and the routine clearance from the Mandir Nyas Parishad will be done in its meeting on Tuesday next week,” Navneet Sehgal, Principal Secretary, Religious Affairs Department told The Indian Express.
The periphery of the temple will also be developed with the lanes leading to the temple relaid with superior quality stones. Even the electric works in the periphery will have underground cables with lamp posts being installed for adding aesthetic beauty. “In rainy season there is too much water logging in the periphery which poses problems for the devotees. It will be redesigned with new drainage system,” Sehgal said.
Further, the employees at the temple will be regularised as full-time staff of the Nyas Parishad. Presently, they are on contract and paid honorarium, which ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 per month. Since they are not full-time employees, there are no rules to govern them. Now, they will be adopted as regular employees and proper service rules will be framed under the Nyas. The religious affairs department also has planned to depute at least three purohits inside the ‘garbhgrah’ for helping the devotees.
State government had sacked the chairman of Nyas Parishad Ashok Dwivedi on May 6 on various grounds. However, the Allahabad High Court had stayed fresh appointment on the post while taking cognizance of a petition filed by Dwivedi. State government had claimed that Dwivedi visited the temple only 10 times in a year during VIP visits while accompanying Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, industrialist Mukesh Ambani, Bhutan Naresh and UP Governor. The files related to Nyas were also kept pending by him resulting in delay. Presently, the charge of Nyas has been given to Principal Secretary Navneet Sehgal. Dwivedi’s wife Asha Dwivedi, too, had written to Governor and state government alleging irregularities by Dwivedi.