10 'corrupt' priests barred from performing rituals in Kashi temple
Varanasi (UP), Aug 20 (IANS) Ten priests have been barred from performing rituals inside the Kashi Vishwanath temple, while their identity cards have also been cancelled by the temple administration following charges of corruption and misbehaviour.
The priests, known as 'nishulk shastri', were tasked with facilitating the devotees' entry into the temple.
Varanasi Divisional Commissioner Deepak Agrawal said, "A number of complaints were received against some priests engaged in the temple to facilitate devotees seeking entry after purchasing tickets, especially for 'Sugam Darshan', to avoid spending long time in queues. It was alleged that after taking the devotees inside the temple, these priests used to force them to perform rituals to milk money from them."
"As the number of complaints increased, evidence was collected in which 10 'shastris' were found involved in malpractices, after which the action of barring them from performing rituals was initiated," he said.
According to temple authorities, the priests in the category of 'nishulk shastri' are engaged by the temple's help-desk to facilitate devotees entering the temple after purchasing tickets.
Against a payment of Rs 300 for one 'Sugam Darshan' ticket, each priest appointed to facilitate the devotees concerned is paid Rs 30.
A large number of priests in this category earn over Rs 1 lakh only by receiving the genuine amount paid to them on each ticket during the month of Shrawan, when the number of devotees coming to the temple go up.
Officials said that taking advantage of the fact that the CCTV network was disabled due to some ongoing construction work in the temple, the priests started indulging in malpractices.
Agrawal said a meeting of senior priests and temple employees was convened in which it was made clear that those distorting the image of the holy shrine will not be allowed to contribute to work in the temple.