In a first, the appointment of priests to the temples governed by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) in Kerala has been made in accordance with the reservation norms followed for the recruitment of government employees.
This is the first time since the Travancore Devaswom Board was set up in 1949 that recruitment of temple employees has been made following government reservation norms.
With this, the list of recruits that has 62 members in total, has 30 priests from OBC communities and 6 priests from Dalit communities. While some of the 36 priests got in through the quota, others figured in the merit list of the general quota.
The TDB released the list of 62 candidates on Thursday, after the recruitment board chose them following a selection process spanning months.
Kerala Devaswom Recruitment Board (KDRB) Chairperson Rajagopalan Nair told TNM that this was the first of the board's ventures, after it was reconstituted in November last year.
"We conducted an OMR examination in the month of March, following which, we shortlisted 400 candidates, who were interviewed in July. They have been appointed for the post of Keezh-shanti (assistant priest)," Rajagopalan said.
Why is this a landmark move?
Ever since the TDB came into being in 1949, this is the first time that recruitment of its temple employees is happening following government reservation norms. The Devaswom Board is governed by the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act. According to this Act, explains Rajagopalan, the recruitment of employees to the 1450 temples under TDB, was made by the board itself, in the past.
"Government or any other external agency had no role to play in the recruitment process until 2007. In 2007, the then government amended the Act, according to which, recruitment of employees (administration, and other staff) except that of temple employees was to be done through Public Selection Commission (PSC). However, this was not implemented and recruitment continued to be done by the TDB," Rajagopalan explained.
Although KDRB was set up in 2015, it did not take off. It was in November 2016, after the LDF government came to power, that the board was re-constituted, with Rajagopalan as its Chairperson.
Asked about possible resistance from certain quarters of appointing priests who are not brahmin, Rajagopalan said that there was no room for such an issue.
"There is no possibility of resistance from anyone. Government procedures have been followed in bringing out the list and it contains people of most of the castes in the state. From Brahmins to Nairs to SC/ST candidates, the list encompasses everyone," he said.
Asked about the controversy regarding the shunning of Sudhikumar, a priest belonging to the OBC Ezhava community who was shunted out of a temple in Alappuzha and prevented from working at the temple, Rajagopalan said that it was an isolated incident.
"We won't have such issues in this case, that was a one-off incident, as a result of the narrow mind of certain groups," he said.
Row over Sudhikumar's appointment
The case of 36-year-old Sudhikumar, a priest belonging to Ezhava caste considered an OBC in Kerala, being prevented from joining as a priest in Chettikulangara temple in Alappuzha, had blown up into a controversy in the past few weeks.
After a Hindu Matha Convention in the temple objected to the appointment of the Ezhava priest citing that the goddess will be upset over it, the TDB had cancelled Sudhikumar's appointment.
However, after Sudhikumar's prolonged battle with the board, it reinstated him to the post in September.