After facing criticism over notice to a temple priest to return the excess salary credited into his account, the Karnataka government withdrew the notice on Wednesday (24 January).
The notice, dated 2 December and issued by the Chikkamangaluru tahsildar, was served to Hiremagaluru Kannan, a priest at the Kodanda Ramachandra Swamy temple in Hiremagaluru asking him to return an excess amount of Rs 4.74 lakh credited to his account between 2013 and 2022 as salary.
The notice came to public attention on Tuesday and was retracted within hours.
It stated that Kannan had received Rs 8.1 lakh as 'tasdik' or honorarium over the nine years, instead of the intended Rs 3.36 lakh, leading to the overpayment.
The notice detailed that the temple's revenue from 2013 to 2022 was Rs 9.34 lakh, while expenses totalled Rs 12.96 lakh, including Kannan's monthly salary of Rs 7,500. It also mentioned that the temple is categorised as a low-earning religious place.
While speaking to the media on Tuesday, Kannan said that he was asked to return the amount as the revenue of the temple is less than the expenses towards the 'tasdik'.
He was to receive an annual tasdik of Rs 24,000 from 2003 to 2017 but got Rs 90,000 instead, and from 2017 to 2022, he was to get Rs 45,000 annually but received Rs 90,000.
"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,” Kannan was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
The issue gained prominence, leading BJP state president B Y Vijayendra to criticise the Congress-led government on social media for “targeting Hindu religious sentiments”.
Later, Karnataka Minister of Transport and Endowment Ramalinga Reddy said the notice served to the priest would be withdrawn.
“I have directed officers to hold an inquiry against the tahsildar and other officers responsible for wrong payment and recovery of excess amounts," he said.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday said since it was the tahsildar’s mistake, the excess money “will be collected from the tahsildar”.
Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.
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