Hindu temples not under HR & CE are charged at Rs. 5 for 0-100 units and at Rs. 8.05 beyond that, while the Mosques and Churches are charged at Rs.2.85 for 0-120 units and Rs.5.75 beyond that, says the RTI reply from TANGEDCO.
Charging a different rate for consumption of electricity by the Hindu temples which are not under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment ( HR and CE), has shocked the Hindus. This starling information came to light when a query raised under the Rights to Information Act received the information as response.
Tiruvarur District Akila Hindu Maha Sabha district General Secretary (Temple protection wing) P Ramesh on 20th November last year wanted the details of electricity charged for temples, mosques and churches for which he had filed a RTI query with Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO). To this, A Mathivanan, Executive Engineer (Operation and maintenance) of TANGEDCO at Tiruvarur in a reply dated 20th December 2019 wrote “All religious places of worship like temples which are coming directly under HR and CE fold, temples under the HR and CE Supervision, Islamic mosques and Christian Churches, Cathedrals are charged for Electricity consumption in the slab of - 0-120 units Rs.2.85 and above 120 units, it is Rs.5.75 . But the temples not coming under the HR and CE , the charges are 0-100 units Rs 5.00 and above 100 units it is Rs 8.05”. Devotees started questioning the government’s attitude. They say places of worship should be treated alike.
Retired TNEB official, advocate and All India president of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyut Mazdoor Mahasangh (ABVMM) Murali Krishna told Organiser “There is no written or specific mention to that effect in Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission order. It merely fixed tariff for 'places of worship'. He said both TNERC and HR and CE officials applied different rates for temples, churches and mosques. “Even churches or prayer halls in individual names or houses or Muslim names places are given preferential treatment. Hindu individual’s temples are not given such privilege. If they form trust and approach them, they would be asked to get NOC from HR and CE. There are over 1000 such temples in Tamil Nadu which are in Commercial tariff segment", he says.
Murali Krishna further says that “If such temples approach HR and CE for NoC , they would try to take over the temples by asking a lot of questions like if they offer sevas, their collection details and are also warned of audit. Hence many trustees are afraid of taking this move. Moreover the Director of Distribution and CFO are from minority communities. Such affected temples first go to consumer grievances forum. These executive orders are a threat to Hindus not to build any more new temples but the same does not apply for mosques and churches. In this matter no writ, PIL can be filed. They should first move to Consumer Grievances forum and then appeal to Ombudsman”.
RTI Reply by TANGEDCO Executive Engineer which provides details of the different slabs of rates for Hindu temple not under HR &CE, mosques and churches
Hindu Munnai State President Kadeswara C. Subramanian told Organiser that “We have been accusing the Tamil Nadu rulers of bias in their treatment of Hindu temples . Government is not secular. Hindu temples are only managed through its HR and CE department. The government takes the income from the Hindu temples but it is not in the case of Mosques and churches. He said now it is known that even charges for electricity are not uniform for Hindu and non-Hindu places of worships. The government is giving concessional tariff to Mosques and Churches which are not giving a single pie to the government. Charging Hindu private temples under Commercial establishment category is highly discriminatory. We charge the government of partition attitude towards Hindus, which is totally unacceptable. We condemn this. A secular government treats all regions without any bias. It is highly condemnable and regrettable of robbing Hindus by higher rates to pay for minorities. We request the TN government to rectify this anomaly and extend the same rates for Hindu private temples. Otherwise we approach courts besides holding protests in front of all EB offices in the state”.
- "The government is giving concessional tariff to Mosques and Churches which are not giving a single pie to the government. Charging Hindu private temples under Commercial establishment category is highly discriminatory. We charge the government of partition attitude towards Hindus, which is totally unacceptable. We condemn this. A secular government treats all regions without any bias. It is highly condemnable and regrettable of robbing Hindus by higher rates to pay for minorities." - Kadeswara C. Subramanian, Hindu Munnai State President.
Advocate and BJP spokesman A Aswathaman told Organiser that the word ‘Secular’ means religious institutions which should be free of government interference. He said under the Constitution the state governments are secular. But TN government keeps the Hindu temples under its control and collecting exorbitant charges for darshan of dieties which are against dharmic tenets. "HR and CE act should be rescinded. This is our long term demand. The government took all the revenue from temples and is spending it to Mosques and Churches. Now the information obtained under RTI act, charging lesser for mosques and Churches and higher for temples is shocking.” He said Successive Dravidian governments have been indulging in vote bank and minority appeasement policies.
Incomplete Information by fact-checking sites
'Fact-checking' website Alt-News had published an article
which claimed that temples are not charged more for electricity than mosques and churches in Tamil Nadu. The article depends on the tariffs mentioned on TANGEDCO's website and claimed that 'All religious places are charged equally for electricity by the Tamil Nadu government'. The article concluded that the 'social media claim' is false and misleading. Similar claims have been made by several other 'fact-checking' websites too.
However, the RTI reply secured by P Ramesh does clearly indicate different slab rates for private temples i.e Temple not under the HR and CE. As per the RTI reply, TANGEDCO does indeed charge different rates for Hindu Temples not under HR & CE and 'religious places' as mentioned above. The Alt-News articles does not take into consideration the details provided by the RTI query.
A retired TNEB official who spoke to this correspondent said he personally knew the different rates were charged for private Hindu temples and he would say the same in any forum. ”I have first hand experience as a vigilance officer during my field visits. TNERC merely suggests tariff structure for places of public worship without naming or categorizing. But the top officials of TANGEDCO instruct field inspection staff to categorise and charge at commercial rates. It has been going on for long time", he claimed.
He said that the Al-News claim was wrong. The Alt-News article also does not mention if the churches or mosques are brought under commercial category if they are built on unauthorized lands (promboke), he says.
Sources have informed that a certain Amman Temple was being billed at commercial rates but it later got it changed recently after much struggle and paying bribes to the officials.
Largesse for Churches and Mosques
In 2020-21 Budgets, the TN government had announced that the fund for annual maintenance of mosque across the state would be increased to 5 crores from Rs.60 lakhs. The Deputy CM who holds finance portfolio also said the government would spend Rs.5 crore on repairs and maintenance of churches against the earlier allocation of Rs.1 crore. The Dy. CM had announced Rs.2,50 crores for annual administrative grand for the Wakf Board. Over 3.64 lakh Minority community students would be given Rs 98.66 crore as scholarships. When people are under the grief of Corona, TN government had given 5,450 ton rice to mosques for Ramzan porridge. For being Hindus paying higher rate of charges and being minorities getting concessions will not indirectly signal people to convert to their religions ? The only solution is the abolition of the HR and CE act”.
TR Ramesh, president of Indic Collective and Temple Worshipers Society in a tweet said "Temples under TN Govt control, Churches and Mosques (no govt control) a special rate of charges for electricity consumed. Temples not under the control of Govt are treated as “commercial establishments” and charged 60 % more. Secularism my foot”.
KSV Subramanian in a Tweet said “Yes, Secularism, my foot. Where is secularism in India? It is clear cut discrimination against anything Hindu in India. Rather they brought back the rule of Islamic invaders back after independence". Another user tweeted "...as per constitution u are secular only not Hindu at all. That’s why our temple is not religious place but public place. Offering in temples is public money and should be used for public at large and not for temples.
Thiru Koil Tholaikkaatchi (Temple TV)
The TN government has planned to launch a Temple TV with funds from Hindu temples under the HR & CE dept.
TR Ramesh tweeted “Next loot of Temple funds by shameless TN HR and CE department. Initial plan to lift 8.77 crores from Sri Kapaliswarar Temple alone. I warned the office concerned with 10 years imprisonment u/s 409 of Indian Penal Code. Now changed it to many temples. Still illegal”.
Some say it is acceptable if the proposed channel only airs programs about Hindu temples. It should not show churches, Mosques in the garb of secularism, they opined.
GO of the Proposed TV channel