- GS-2: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States; Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
Uttarakhand’s Char Dham Board
Context: Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act was enacted by Uttarakhand State legislature in 2019.
Under the same Act, the State government constituted the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Board on January 15, 2020.
- Under this board, at present there are 53 temples, including four shrines – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri – and other temples located around these shrines.
- The shrine board is the highest governing body for the management of the temples with powers to frame policies, make decisions to give effect to the provisions of this Act, of budget formulation and to sanction expenditure, among others.
- The board may also give directions for the safe custody, prevention and management of funds, valuable securities, jewellery and properties vested in the temples.
- Through the Devasthanam board, the government has taken control over the financial and policy decisions
What was the previous arrangement?
- Earlier, the Shri Badrinath-Shri Kedarnath Act, 1939 was in place for the management of two shrines (Badrinath and Kedarnath) and 45 temples by Shri Badrinath- Shri Kedarnath Mandir Samiti.
- The Samiti was chaired by a government appointed person whereas an official of all India service used to be the CEO.
- All the decisions related to utilization of the donations, funds and development works in and around those 45 temples including Badrinath and Kedarnath were taken by that committee and the government did not intervene into it.
- In Gangotri and Yamunotri, management of the shrines was earlier in the control of local trusts and the government was not getting any share from the donations made by devotees.
Who are protesting and why?
- Priests, Pandas, Dimris and others who run dharmshalas and shops at the Badrinath and Kedarnath shrines staged protests in Dehradun.
- They alleged that with the shrine board, the government will get control of the entire area and donations.
- Some argue that Hindu temples should be governed by the Hindu society and the governments should not have any control over management of temples, its properties and religious systems.
What does the government say?
- Constitutional Validity of Act upheld by Judiciary: The Uttarakhand High Court in July 2020 had dismissed a PIL challenging the constitutional validity of 2019 Act. The Court held that Char Dham and associated temples are public temples whose secular functions can be regulated by a law made by the competent legislature.
- Responsibility & Right of Government: When the government looks after the security and other arrangements for convenience of pilgrims, the government should have control over utilization of funds and planned development of the area. Devasthanam board gives such power to the government
- Enhances Public Services: The State government argues that the public is in support of the devasthanam board because they want good services there and the government only provides these services to them
- Stakeholders Rights Safeguarded: The government has introduced the clause protecting the rights of teerth-purohits, rawals and pandas. The act is therefore not interfering with the traditions & religious activities but only regulating the secular functions of the Temples