Nainital: 31 August, 2015
It has been almost a year since the Uttarakhand government started a pension scheme for temple priests aged more than 60 years in the hill state. Since its launch in October 2014, dilemma, delay and indecisiveness have plagued the implementation of the scheme. Earlier, the culture department was asked to frame guidelines about who is to be considered as eligible priest for the pension.
Officials of the directorate of social welfare told TOI that they have sent a draft to the government for improvization and approval which will get results soon. The plans are to include individuals of all religions who perform religious rituals.
"We have sent a draft with inclusion of proposed eligibilities for the pension. Now it's up to competent authorities in the state government to give much-awaited green signal," said a key official from Haldwani office of the directorate, talking to TOI.
Since its launch in October last year, the scheme is still awaiting implementation due to indecisiveness of various departments. Many blame the delays on the fact that various technicalities and complications are involved. "There has to a clear definition of who is a priest and who is not, including the time frame since when the person is in the profession. Because there is no documented record of 'purohits' except at shrines like Kedarnath, Badrinath and a few others, it's a hard task to identify eligible people," added the official.
Many priests in the region are not aware of any such welfare scheme. Shyamlal Negi (54), a priest of a temple in Haldwani said, "It is good if government is thinking about us, but I am not aware of any such scheme."
Priests of the famous Naini Devi temple refused to comment on the matter, stating instead that God's worship is something which cannot be traded for any amount of pension or facilities from anyone.
Meanwhile, social welfare department director Vishnu Dhanik said, "Purohit pension is under consideration. It will take another three months at least to implement the scheme because the state government is yet to define 'purohits' and involve all stakeholders in the process. A survey has been done by the social welfare department in this regard, but it's implementation awaits government nod."