The Karnataka Government that had resumed granting of subsidy of 30% from the Endowment and Muzrai department for the Chardham Yatra scheme that was started last year has suffered a major setback because of shortage of subsidy funds! As per a Vijaya Karnataka report some 4000 applications seeking Chardham Yatra benefits were pending from the last year, out of which only 1000 were cleared and the rest have been temporarily suspended owing to shortage of funds. The Muzrai department has proposed to the state Government to relook into the matter and increase the pilgrimage grants commissioned to overcome the shortage of funds and is awaiting consenting directives from the state government to clear pending applications until which time all subsidies have been stopped for the Chardham Yatra! The Muzrai department has also proposed certain changes to the state on the finance allocation to the said scheme.
The Chardham yatra is a sacred trip that every Hindu dreams of accomplishing at least once in his lifetime. The pilgrimage includes visiting the holy places of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri in the Uttarakhand region for which states devise some benefit schemes on conditional basis, the Karnataka state had dropped this scheme altogether and was resumed only last year.
With the onset of the scheme a government directive was issued where 2 crores out of 5 crores allocated for the Manasa Sarovar Yatra scheme was proposed to be allotted for Chardham Yatra. As per this directive, Rs.20000 per pilgrim could be allotted for only 1000 pilgrims wherein the remaining 3000 pilgrims were denied the benefits as there applications had to be rejected. The Muzrai department wrote a letter for increasing the subsidy benefits to cater to all but since the state has not increased the subsidies the Muzrai department has made certain changes to the subsidy policy due to the increased number of applications received.
The new set of directives state that only those above 45 years of age will be able to avail the benefit and that the benefit of 20000 that was earlier allotted per head will now be given per family only once in a lifetime to avoid misuse by the pilgrims. Earlier the beneficiaries were decided on first come first basis but now the beneficiaries would be picked in a lottery like lucky dip. The pilgrims have to travel through Government constituted CHardham committee, submit pilgrim card issued to them and pilgrims have to submit all their identification proofs like Aadhar, voter id card and must be a Karnataka resident only.
While the issue of whether or not any religious subsidy should be given at all in a secular democracy is much debated topic in itself especially when crores of government controlled Hindu Temple money goes to subsidize the minorities, it is strange that the Karnataka Government that is never short of state funds for its minority appeasing Bhagyas from the state exchequer is finding itself hard pressed to allow even Rs.20000 per pilgrim when Haj pilgrims are receiving anything like Rs.55000. It is another thing that this whole Votebank gimmicks of allowing religious subsidies from the last many decades is a big convenient bucket for siphoning off the tax payers money towards the corrupt political pockets. For decades together our national airline AirIndia strangely was drowned in losses in spite of all the pilgrimage packages of Haj being contracted out to them where each Hajji was allocated thousands of rupees that costed the state exchequer crores of rupees. On one hand money was allocated for subsidies from state treasury and on the other hand AirIndia would record losses and get loan waivers and even the Hajjis complained that when there were other travel agents willing to offer much cheaper fares why then was the state interfering by accruing higher costs while playing the ploy of subsidy? So where did all that money go? Perhaps all that is now being put to use for all their propaganda today when they can no more fathom seizing power! Anyway coming back to Karnataka politics, it is no secret that the Karnataka Government that has around 250000 temples under its control accumulates annual collections that go beyond thousands of crores but very little – a paltry sum is actually spent on the upkeep of these temples or its administration. The RTI report that revealed an income from the Kollur Mookambika temple alone which runs up to 33-44 crores but the Government spend is only Rs.65000 for its maintenance, this figure is still fresh in the minds of people, that being the case how then is there a shortage of funds for subsidizing religious pilgrimage of the Hindus when none occurs for Haj? And add to the injury it is deplorable that the Siddaramaiah government has even approved the setting up of Indira Canteen – “a blatant ricebag votemongering socialist policy to breed sluggish and incompetent masses”, right into the Banashankari temple premises which is a religious place sacred to millions of Hindus but who cares for the secular ethos of our constitutional machinery of not interfering with religious institutions because anything Hindu is meant to be subsided into an Ahinda gimmick at the very cost of vulnerable and fearful and foolish Hindus under a secular Congress Elvis who has left the building pregnant with polarization politics where subsidies like Chardham and Haj are like the side and inner pant pockets!