Hyderabad: Arjitha Sevas to deities in about 18,000 temples across the state came to a halt with temple priests and employees going on an indefinite strike. But all major temples with revenue of more than Rs 1 crore functioned normally and ensured that devotees were not put to inconvenience. Arjitha Sevas are rituals performed at temples on payment of a fee by devotees.
Though devotees had a hard time having darshan and perform Arjitha Sevas in most of the temples in the Telangana region, it was not the case in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. Rituals were conducted normally throughout the day at major temples at Tirumala, Srisailam, Bhadrachalam, Simhachalam, Vijayawada and Basara.
The Telangana Archaka Samakhya, which is spearheading the agitation, claimed that more than 36,000 employees working in 18,000 temples across the state took part in the strike. Archakas and employees said they would continue the strike till August 14 and launch an indefinite hunger strike after August 15 if the government did not meet their demands by then.
Soon after the early morning traditional pujas, priests have stopped the Arjitha Sevas like Archana and Abhishekam in most of the temples since 8 am and devotees had to be content with just having darshan. According to endowment officials, temples lost considerable income due to stoppage of Arjitha Sevas. As per the action plan of the employees, protests will continue for second day on Thursday. In case of no response from the government, priests and employees will stage a dharna near the endowment department’s office here on August 10, lay siege to the endowment commissioner’s Office on August 11 and organise a ‘Chalo Hyderabad’ programme on August 12.
In Warangal, about 400 priests staged a protest at the Bhadrakali temple. Telangana Archaka Samakhya district president G Upendra Sarma demanded that all priests be paid reasonable salary and the temple revenue should be used for the welfare of priests and the temple but not for other purposes. They voiced concern that the Endowments Act amended in 2007 for the benefit of priests and temple employees was not being implemented and decried the apathy of the government in redressing their problems.
Similar protests were organised in Karimnagar, Adilabad, Nizamabad, Nalgonda, Medak, Mahbubnagar and Khammam districts in the Telangana region apart from a few other temples in coastal Andhra and Rayalseema regions.