Private virtues,public vices

Private virtues,public vices

The economy is more affected by spread of rains across region and time,rather than aggregate precipitation.

Though it is early days,there may be bad news on the monsoon. The economy is more affected by spread of rains across region and time,rather than aggregate precipitation. It is understandable that people should pray for rains or get frogs married off. We have been doing this for thousands of years. But it is slightly different when governments decide to indulge in prayers.

In Madhya Pradesh,”Som Yajnas” have been performed in Ujjain. As far as one can make out,the Som Yajna in Ujjain was performed by Sholapur’s Veda Vijnana Ashrama,a private entity. The government requested the private entity to come to Ujjain and perform the yajna.

Though the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan,participated in prayers,no financial transaction in terms of payment seems to have been made to Veda Vijnana Ashrama. By most indicators,Andhra is ahead of Madhya Pradesh and therefore,it is understandable that Andhra CM should do better. Not content with appealing to Hindus,Muslims and Christians to offer special prayers for rain,Y S Rajasekhara Reddy has gone a step further. All temples,mosques and churches in Andhra have been ordered to conduct special prayers. The Endowments Minister,G Venkat Reddy,will personally supervise the prayers being held,as per the orders.

Is this what a 21st century India is about? There is a difference between personal practices and public policy. There is a narrower question of whether governments should propagate obscurantism. But there is a broader question about whether public policy should at all be based on religion. Is that the right interpretation of secularism? How can a government order religious organisations to undertake prayers or even supervise prayers that are being held? The reason is purse-strings,since such religious institutions receive endowments from government.

Why should there be an Endowments Minister and Ministry? Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) was established in 1932 and at that time,a colonial government may have wanted oversight. Regulation for something like TTD is fine,but does one need the AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act of 1987,or the ones that preceded it? Does one need the Board of Trustees of TTD to be packed with IAS officers and MLAs? Does one need the government to dabble in religion? That’s a terrible idea. Since the government messes up most things,it will also mess up religion. Let’s keep religion in the private domain.