Of the 62 people shortlisted by the Travancore Devaswom (Temple) Recruitment Board for appointment as temple priests, 36 are from Dalit and backward communities. This is the first time in Kerala that appointment of temple priests is being done according to the reservation norms that are followed for recruitment of government staff.
The Travancore Devaswom Board released the list of 62 candidates on Thursday. They were chosen after a process of tests and interviews.
The total reservation for SC/ST and OBC categories is 32 per cent. However, as many as 36 persons from backward communities were selected as some of them made it to the merit list as well. These candidates will now be appointed in temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board.
Board chairman Rajagopalan Nair said this was the first time that SC/ST and backward communities were being given reservation in recruitment of priests.
“Earlier, we had some priests from backward communities who made it to the list through merit. The Travancore Devaswom Board came into existence in 1949 and the demand for reservation for Dalits in appointment of priests has been persisting for several decades. Previous attempts to meet the demand had faced stiff resistance from certain quarters. But now we have made it a reality,’’ Nair said.
He said the recruitment was done as per the procedures followed by the Public Service Commission, the state government recruitment agency. The present list of candidates was for appointment in temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board according to the demand. In future, priests in other devaswom boards, particularly Cochin and Malabar, will be done in the same manner, said Nair.
Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said recruitment of priests from Dalit and backward segments was very significant. “The board will appoint priests only from the list recommended by the recruitment board,” he said.
Gopalakrishnan said there was a petition pending in the high court seeking appointment of Dalit priests in Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, which is under the board. “As per the existing norms, only Brahmins can be appointed in Sabarimala. The board will go with the court’s direction in this regard,’’ he said.