Akhilesh yields to priests, drops temple takeover plan

Yielding to the pressure from priests of Mirzapur's Vindhyavasini Devi temple, the UP government has dropped its plan to take control of the management of the temple, which is one of the most revered Shaktipeeths, attracting at least 20,000 devotees every day. On special occasions, the number of devotees runs into lakhs.

The Department of Religious Affairs had a few months ago sent a proposal to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, seeking an in-principle approval to take control of temple management.

The government had proposed to constitute a new trust to supervise the collection and expenditure of donations that the temple receives in the form of cash and valuables. It was also planned to fix the pay-scale of the priests and other staff.

Religious Affairs Minister Anand Singh had said the proposal was aimed to prevent exploitation of devotees by priests (also called pandas) who demand undue cash as donations from them.

"The proposal to take over the temple's management has been withdrawn as delegation of pandas (priests) met me recently and assured that the management would be improved and devotees will not face problems."

Singh said the government had moved the proposal to take control of temple's management after the Chief Minister received complaints of irregularities in the temple management.

"While warning the pandas, we have also assured them that the government will not interfere till they run the management in a fair manner," added the minister.

President of Shree Vidhya Panda Sama, an association of priests of the temple, Rajan Pathak had led the delegation of eight priests who had met the minister a few days ago.

A trust, Vindhya Vikas Parishad, controls the management of the temple and district magistrate is an ex-officio head of the governing body.

"We told the minister that irregularities in the management was being done by government officials who are members of the governing body," Pathak said.

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