The Tamil Nadu government on Friday said it is prepared to re-open temples on weekends as sought by the BJP's state unit, provided that party obtained a circular from the Union government, permitting huge gatherings at one place during this pandemic period. "It appears that the BJP's Thursday state-wide protest has lost course as it staged the agitation against the state government. It should have agitated against the Union government or issuing the advisory to restrict gathering of people in large numbers at one place and also festivals which could turn out to be super spreader of the Coronavirus," Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Minister P K Sekar Babu said.
The statement comes amid protests by Tamil Nadu BJP demanding that temples be opened during weekends. BJP State President K Annamalai said that the party would intensify protests against the state government if it did not open the temples during weekends. Annamalai also alleged that DMK was "trying to push their ideology into people's personal space and our sacred temples in the name of COVID-19".
An advisory by the Ministry of Home Affairs on June 29, 2021, which was extended later, says, "In view of upcoming festivals, such as Muharram 19th August), Onam (21st August), Janmashtami (30th August), Ganesh Chaturthi (10th Sep.) and Durga Puja (5th - 15th October 2021) etc, where large public gatherings are expected, it is advised that States may actively consider imposition of local restrictions in public observation of these festivals and curb mass gatherings".
The BJP had staged state-wide protests on Thursday, demanding that the state government remove curbs on weekend worship at temples, even as the ruling DMK assured that Chief Minister M K Stalin would take steps to ensure that they are open all through the week, once the threat of the pandemic recedes.
At present, temples are open for darshan four days a week, but closed for three days to prevent the spread of coronavirus during the festival seasons. Speaking after inaugurating the online payment mode to facilitate quick payment of rent for the temple properties that have been hired, the minister said the move would help ascertain their income through immovable assets. There are a total of 44,287 temples, mutts, and temples associated with mutts, besides Jain shrines spread across
Tamil Nadu under the department's control. Of them, 5,509 institutions earn income through their assets while 38,778 lack means to generate income. Rules have been framed to lease out the immovable properties owned by the temples under the ambit of the department, through an open tender process, he said. "The particulars of the land and structures rented out and also that of the tenants have been digitalized to make the online payment of rent charges hassle-free," the Minister said.
The digital payment will help the administration to monitor the income earned by the respective temples in real time and also help maximise the rent collections. "Further, the names of those who have not paid the charges due for the temple properties could be known immediately for initiating appropriate action to obtain the dues," Babu said. HR & CE Commissioner J Kumaragurubaran and other senior officials participated.