Recently news came out of the Endowment Department of Karnataka asking a temple priest to return an amount of Rs. 4.74 lakh that they claimed had been given to him in excess over a period of 10 years.
What Happened With The Priest?
A notice was sent on 2nd December 2023 to Hiremagaluru Kannan, a priest of the Kodanda Ramachandra Swamy temple that essentially asked him to return an amount of Rs. 4/74 lakh that was said to be an excess paid to him as a salary from 2013 to 2022.
The temple is located in Hiremagaluru in Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka, and the letter was sent by the Chikkamagaluru tahsildar because according to reports the government had “inadvertently” given Rs. 8.1 lakh as tasdik or honorarium instead of the specified amount of Rs. 3.36 lakh during the approximately 10-year time period.
Thus, the letter asked Kannan to return the extra amount of Rs 4.74 lakh since as per it the temple revenue itself was only Rs. 9.34 lakh whereas the expenditure was registered as being Rs. 12.96 lakh. The notice claimed that the salary of the Chief Priest was higher as compared to the income that the temple generated.
Minister of Transport and Endowment Ramalinga Reddy said, “The Tahsildar reported that from 2013-14 to 2016-17, an annual expenditure of Rs 24,000 was intended for the priests but an incorrect amount of Rs 90,000 per annum was disbursed. Similarly, from 2017-18 to 2021-22, the designated Rs 48,000 per annum was mistakenly increased to Rs 90,000.”
Reports claim that Kannan’s salary as the Chief Priest of Rs. 7,500 per month was included in the amount.
As per reports, Kannan stated that “I was supposed to get an annual tasdik of Rs 24,000 between 2003 and 2017 but I was credited Rs 90,000 per year. Likewise, I was supposed to get Rs 45,000 per year between 2017 and 2022 but I received Rs 90,000 per year.
I was paid an additional amount of Rs 4.74 lakh over a period of 10 years and I was asked to return the money as the temple was not generating good revenue. However, I wish to mention that it is because of priests like me, the government hundi collections have increased.”
However, this was not taken well by some groups and among them, the BJP state president B Y Vijayendra posted on social media that the Congress-led Karnataka government’s attitude was “targeting Hindu religious sentiments”.
The notice was eventually withdrawn with Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah stating “The tehsildar is wrong in issuing a notice to Hiremagaluru Kannan to refund the tasdik money… (it is) not Kannan’s fault. I will speak to the concerned officials to withdraw the notice. Kannan has been paid extra money by tehsildar, we will collect the arrears from them.”
Karnataka Minister Reddy also commented, “I have directed officers to hold an inquiry against the tahsildar and other officers responsible for wrong payment and recovery of excess amounts.”
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