Uttar Pradesh: Donations dry up at temples, dargahs; anger over media ‘lies’

With Uttar Pradesh heading into arguably its most polarised elections ever, the shock of demonetisation is also manifesting in contempt for the media across this area.

Written by Apurva | Aligarh/vrindavan | Updated: December 15, 2016 12:33 pm
demonetisation, uttar pradesh, UP elections, UP polls, Uttar Pradesh news, India news, Demonetisation effects,temple donations, dargah notations Counting exercise at Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan after government order to deposit donations daily. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

Minutes after the Banke Bihari temple in Vrindavan shuts for the afternoon, the main hall is abuzz. This is the time the deity is supposed to sleep but 15 uniformed guards troop in and sit in circles atop a wide alcove. There are a few armed policemen around.

Four lawyers, in black coats, take up positions on chairs arranged in front of the guards and sit among two members of the temple trust. Another guard drags a heavy strong box and places it in front of the lawyers and trustees.

Watch Video| Here’s How Banke Bihari Temple In Vrindavan Counts Donations Post Demonetisation 

All is ready now. The lawers and trustees nod in approval. Seconds later, five locks — sealed and marked — on the strong box are opened and out tumbles a cascade of currency notes. One of the guards gives a gentle shake to nudge out more notes and coins — of all denominations. The notes are piled on a blanket and passed on to the guards sitting above, who begin counting and stacking them.

This is Vrindavan post demonetisation. With banks running out of currency notes and money in short supply from treasury chests, the government has directed the biggest temples in Vrindavan to deposit the money they receive in donations into their bank accounts every day.

The Banke Bihari temple alone has contributed Rs 1.2 crore in five days. And given the short two-hour duration in the afternoon when it is closed and when these boxes can be opened, the temple has got around to sorting just six of its 15 donation boxes so far.

“Many of these boxes have not been opened for two months, so we don’t know the effect of the withdrawal of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes on donations. However, we have noticed a dip in the number of visitors to the temple, which means donations may also decrease,” says a temple official.

Almost 70 km away in Aligarh, there’s a similar trend, except there’s not enough money in donations to warrant government directions to make bank deposits.

Mohammad Naseem, the imam of the Barchi Bahadur Dargah, says, “Today is Thursday, the busiest day of the week here and you can see the crowds. There wouldn’t be space for us to stand and speak on any other Thursday. This move by the government has caused hardship to many, particularly the poor.” It’s the poor who mostly visit the dargah.

“How or why will a person who has to feed a family waste money in these times on donations? Currency in hand is most important at this point,” says Vrindavan Bihari, the head priest of the 173-year-old Nimbark Kot temple.

The temple has also curtailed its Nimbark Jayanti Mahotsav, held for one month every year starting October. “It includes a yatra across the city, a sammelan where priests discuss a particular topic, and food and prasad for the devotees on the last day,” says Vrindavan Bihari.

The programmes were reviewed minutes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech. “We had to cancel the sammelan and decided to reduce the number of tickets we hand out for the food and prasad,” he says. From 2,000 tickets last year, the number was cut to 700.

In Aligarh, small businesses have been forced to extend their credit lines or stop supplies all together. Noorjehan, a flower and chaddar seller outside the Barchi Bahadur dargah, says, “I set up my shop every Thursday. But today, I have barely made enough to pay my suppliers. I will have to pay them from my pocket this week and that means standing in the bank for several hours. Next week, I may not put up the stall, there is no point in buying goods for customers who don’t want them.”

With Uttar Pradesh heading into arguably its most polarised elections ever, the shock of demonetisation is also manifesting in contempt for the media across this area. Naseem says he has stopped watching TV and reading most newspapers. “They do not show the truth; it’s very frustrating. TV news says the lines have lessened and the cash crunch is over, but when I rush to the bank, the line is longer than ever. How can they show such lies?” he asks.

Mehmood, a dargah trustee, and Abdul Jabbar, the owner of a clothes shop that adjoins Aligarh’s Jama Masjid, speak of TV reporters pushing microphones into their faces for reactions to the demonetisation. “They moved the microphone away when I started to narrate my troubles, and went to someone else who said it’s great for the country. It may be great for the country, but the poor implementation and troubles it has caused cannot be ignored,” Jabbar says.
Jabbar adds that he doesn’t have money to replenish his clothes stock. “I saw the demonetisation in 1978. Then, life was unaffected. This is traumatic,” he says.

A woman customer listening to the conversation jumps in. “Most TV channels only show lies and only the men. It’s the women who keep money at home and use it to run the house. Where are our voices? Nobody asks us anything. We are also voters. Let the elections come,” she says.

Anshuman Sharma Gopaljee, a Ram Kathavachak in Vrindavan, says what TV is doing is “wrong”. “I have stopped watching the news. Nowadays it’s blatant lies. There is an ATM outside my house and they were showing visuals of just a few people in the queue. I looked outside the window and there was a long line and even a small quarrel between customers.”
A senior photographer in Vrindavan, who didn’t want to be named, says, “There are times when reporters do this on their own and times when they have orders to do so. Who can tell what happens? The media is deeply divided along party lines. On demonetisation, depending on which channel you watch, there are absolutely no troubles at all or the world is ending.”

On the border between Vrindavan and Mathura is a small temple, with no devotees this morning. The head priest, Ashok, was once a stringer with three TV channels. So why is he a priest now? “Once upon a time, it was great work. Our stories genuinely brought some change. Ab mazaa nahin aata hai (It wasn’t fun anymore).”

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  1. A
    Asit Sen
    Nov 27, 2016 at 4:27 am
    We pray this time Modi go out of country and never returns like Zakar Nalayak
    Reply
    1. C
      Chandu
      Nov 27, 2016 at 5:20 am
      No sane or educated person in the world can agree with this stupid move except Bhakts... The Biggest ber done by Indian Government... Thanks to Modi, taking the country for a ride and ridiculing the common people...
      Reply
      1. F
        farzi kumar
        Nov 27, 2016 at 7:50 pm
        All the funds of maoist along with support and m base rendered useless. lt;br/gt;Cry lt;br/gt;#L@al Ga@andians
        Reply
        1. F
          farzi kumar
          Nov 27, 2016 at 7:41 pm
          Public are fool and their memory is short term by 2019 they will forget everything and vote again for BJP because of the high intrest rate they will get on saving account
          Reply
          1. R
            Raj
            Nov 27, 2016 at 5:45 am
            You could be a bhakt, curse of the nation
            Reply
            1. P
              Prabhakaran Pappalil
              Nov 27, 2016 at 5:04 am
              Mamata has become synonym for black, a synonym for corruption and symbol for currency smuggling from BDesh.
              Reply
              1. U
                Umakanth
                Nov 27, 2016 at 5:22 am
                Modi thinks using his social media propaa he can trick people all the time, its temp, when reality sets in and their wallets start to hurt, he and the bhakts will be dragged and beaten on the streets like Gaddafi.
                Reply
                1. T
                  Tazeem Ahmed
                  Nov 27, 2016 at 5:43 am
                  It's in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photoshopped world very dangerous.lt;br/gt;Brené Brown
                  Reply
                  1. O
                    other side
                    Dec 1, 2016 at 11:57 pm
                    In 1995, the U.S. saw Y2K coming, they hired all computer engineers from the world to prevent any disruption by this technicality.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;In 2007, the U.S. cash crunch, which no one saw coming, created the biggest recession in 80 years and some parts of the U.S, economy never recoveredlt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;A handful of Indian politicians created a 2016 cash crunch, just to control cash and win election in four states in 2017. Some business will never recover from this act of treachery.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Corruption is transaction based fluid event. It is not a historical event which already happened and if we take care of residue (old notes) it will be fixed. It happens on the basis of sole intention. Mode of transaction can switched from old currency to gold, payables, or even some physical labor. Lets say old notes were equivalent to salt(an ancient currency), if government ban salt, how does it stops corruption, you can transect in metals, other es or even come up with some kind of new currency.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Howe does invalidating currency prevent people from transacting in other modes? lt;br/gt;How this decesion was not potically motivated to win election? Given it is paddy season, wedding season, festivals, NRI tourism season when the economy needs the circulation the most.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Initially prime minister said it is to cure corruption when people asked above questions he switched his position labeling this as an initiative to go electronic but did not admit the political motive. People don't have money to eat and banks don't have time to deal with cash lines. How can banks open accounts for mes and sign them up for online?lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;This week he said politicians can show their accounts post note ban, who is he fooling to cover up this biggest act of corruption in which every single person on that piece of land is suffering.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The worst part is Modi supporters are celebrating that Kejriwal is suffering. I mean seriously!! He is another politician, trying to be as coorupt as possible. He can put his hands on few crores whereas Modi put his hands on few thousand. But why do we celebrate an event which marred the entire credibilty in the international financial markets.
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      Sri
                      Nov 27, 2016 at 6:43 am
                      The govt is not even leaving temples. There should not be Hindus in first place. The money is of people and donated for development and maintenance of temples and should be used for same. It's shameful that this money also these Pepe want to mint...
                      Reply
                      1. K
                        Kaliyug
                        Nov 26, 2016 at 11:34 pm
                        Bribing the God was a big industry, now getting caught has stopped these low lives from visiting the temples, mosques and churches.
                        Reply
                        1. K
                          Kaliyug
                          Nov 28, 2016 at 1:02 am
                          Money donated in temples is used for everything except the temple, most temples lack proper places for people to sit, relax, bathrooms or even a restful place to meditate. Most of the money is stolen by the temple staff and local politicians, this has been taking place for thousands of years. Hindu temple donations are used to feed the anti-Hindu religions in India. I will be happy if this cash type of economy goes away.
                          Reply
                          1. C
                            Chavali
                            Nov 27, 2016 at 2:22 pm
                            The problem is with public psyche post demonetization those who exchanged currency are not spending or circulating it. Please start spending the money would be back to you. Money and blood is meant for circulation.
                            Reply
                            1. A
                              Avi
                              Dec 3, 2016 at 6:36 am
                              Yeah right... Like when Atalji contested election for the second time!
                              Reply
                              1. A
                                Avi
                                Dec 3, 2016 at 6:46 am
                                It seems that BJP is providing you enough mutton, wine and cash.
                                Reply
                                1. A
                                  Avi
                                  Nov 27, 2016 at 2:21 am
                                  God doesn't accept old notes? LOL
                                  Reply
                                  1. D
                                    Darkhorse
                                    Dec 1, 2016 at 1:07 pm
                                    But what happens when 86% of blood is sucked and 5% is infused?
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      Santano Fernandes
                                      Nov 27, 2016 at 5:46 am
                                      People should rush to the office of MEDIA showing lies almost all MEDIA houses and offices should be burnt totally. These are liars. They will learn a lesson only when people take law in their own hands. Media are the first cheat, they need to be totally destro for show lies and being the organ of the Govt
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        Sanjay Gupta
                                        Nov 27, 2016 at 5:58 am
                                        Food for thought - I believed temples, churches and masjids were a place of worship..and God cannot be bought by money but only pure love.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Looks like the keepers of these holy places think otherwise..
                                        Reply
                                        1. H
                                          Hari
                                          Nov 27, 2016 at 4:41 am
                                          I've waited for an hour but ended with no cash that too after office hours, again I went on my way to search for an ATM which has money and got the cash in another 30min standing in queue. No doubt it's difficulty in getting cash but the public has been used to get the cash at ATM in few min. Those who have patience got money others indulge in complaining mode including media!!
                                          Reply
                                          1. A
                                            Arjun Narayan
                                            Nov 28, 2016 at 4:45 pm
                                            Actually you need help modi bhakt
                                            Reply
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