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THE decision to demonetise high-denomination currency notes has severely affected the livelihoods of priests and religious teachers, most of whom receive offerings and donations in cash. The cash crunch has also affected donations in places of worship such as temples and mosques.
Pandit Vishwanath Shastri, a priest from Pimpri, said, “The livelihood of most priests, like me, is dependent on the dakshinas (offerings or donations) that people give after we perform the rituals. These offerings have always been given in cash, sometimes accompanied by items in kind. The decision to ban notes has affected our lives to a large extent… because the devotees don’t have enough cash with them, the donations given by them have also gone down considerably. Some people, including me, have started accepting cheques. For example, after a pooja I used to receive Rs 4,000, now people pay half of that.”
Maulana Sayyad Fayyaz Hussain Zaidi, a religious teacher from Kondhwa, said, “We receive donations after we give religious sermons at mosques or religious gatherings. Because people don’t have cash, the amount we receive in donations has gone down. I recently delivered sermons at a mosque for three days. The money they gave me was half of what I would generally receive. We always accept the donation given to us and never argue about the amount …. but I have to say that the offerings have shrunk.”
Shrirang Vedpathak, another priest based in Bibwewadi, said, “About a week after the decision was announced, I performed rituals at a marriage ceremony for two days. The father of the bride gave me the ‘dakshina’ in old currency notes, along with a coconut and a piece of cloth, as per tradition. When I said I wouldn’t be able to accept old notes, they said they would pay me within two days. It is now over two weeks, and they have not paid me. I know they will pay me some day or other, because I know the family well, but the cash shortage has definitely affected our lives.”
He added, “In temples, the trusts concerned generally pay only for the accommodation of the priests and their families. The offerings in the donation box are an important source of livelihood. As these donations have gone down considerably, it is going to affect our earnings.”