Amritsar, August 3
Employees of Durgiana Temple, a famous shrine, have accused the management of paying them low wages. They say the meagre salary is being paid to them for years and they are also forced to live in accommodation situated next to a cremation ground.
Some employees, seeking anonymity, said about 200 people were working as pujaris (priests), sewadars, security guards, caretakers of ‘shamshan ghat’ (cremation ground) and ‘bhog bhandar’. All sections of employees are paid Rs 5,000 to Rs 5,500 per month in the beginning and even after working for 15 to 18 years, their salary hardly crosses the mark of Rs 10,000.
Priests and halwais (cooks) are a little pampered. Priests get free accommodation and power supply. Besides, they can accept direct offerings on ‘Sangrad’ from devotes, which is strictly prohibited on other days as CCTV cameras are installed to keep a watch. Cooks are given one month salary as bonus in a year.
Some of the employees, living in the quarters situated next to the cremation ground, rue that they are forced to live under unhygenic conditions. About 20 cremations take place regularly and their rooftops as well as washings are grimed by ashes. They said their numerous requests to the management committee have fallen on deaf ears.
Employees said the Durgiana Committee presented a budget of Rs 19.62 crore for financial year 2017-2018 and it included income of Rs 10.59 crore. They regretted that the management was willing to spend Rs 50 lakh on the construction of a silver gate to the entry of the temple and gold plating work. The same zeal is missing when it comes for the welfare of employees, they alleged.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader Lakshmi Kanta Chawla, in a communiqué to the Durgiana Committee, has said its members must explain the reason behind not permitting its employees to partake langar. She demanded free education for the children of all employees of the temple and lambasted the temple committee for offering meagre salary to its employees and contributing nothing for their social welfare, like provident fund, ESI and other benefits.
When approached, Durgiana Committee general secretary Harish Taneja said all relevant facilities were being provided to the employees who were on the payrolls. He said many steps were taken to provide benefits to employees. “Salaries were raised only after the present management came to power. Earlier, the employees were working on a monthly salary of Rs 3,500. Even in present conditions, these employees are well paid in comparison to other temples in the city,” he said, adding that the committee had procured 1,000 square yards of land to construct residential quarters for employees.