The Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh has decided to pay Rs 5,000 as a monthly honorarium to pastors, evoking a strong reaction from the BJP.
The minorities welfare department has asked all district collectors to enumerate the pastors through village volunteers and submit a report within 15 days.
An order was issued on August 27 mentioning that providing honorarium to pastors was one of the promises made in the manifesto regarding Christian minorities. It also says that no survey on the number of pastors had been made so far in Andhra Pradesh.
The YSRCP had promised honorarium to pastors during the election campaign earlier this year.
Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has condemned the latest government move. The party's state unit alleged that the Jagan government is misusing government-paid village volunteers to identify pastors and pay a monthly stipend to them.
BJP leaders said that the government can't align with one faith and make others feel like outsiders.
"It's blasphemous on the part of a government to favour one religion over another using state funds, especially when pastors mock and proselytize deprived and poor people of other religion," tweeted BJP national secretary Sunil Deodhar, who is also co-in-charge of party affairs in the state.
"Monthly stipend to pastors will add fuel to fire. What's the real agenda?" he asked Jagan Mohan Reddy.
However, the YSRCP pointed out that the honrarium was also increased for Hindu priests and Muslim clerics in the state. The party also pointed out that the scheme had been implemented by the last government, and they had just increased the honorarium given to all religious heads. A note sent to the Endowments Department states that the the state government had decided to enhance the renumeration for archakas to 25% over and above the rates fixed in a Government Order issued in March 2019. It also decided to allot house sites and construct houses for them.
This is the latest in a series of moves by the government which attracted criticism from the opposition, especially BJP, which dubbed him 'anti-Hindu'.
An advertisement of a Jerusalem yatra and Haj pilgrimage on bus tickets in the temple town of Tirupati had sparked a row last month. The advertisements were found on back of tickets of state-owned Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC). The government ordered a probe and promised to take action against the officials for their lapse.
BJP leaders have been upping the ante, alleging that Jagan, a Christian, visited Hindu temples during elections only to garner votes.