CHENNAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has directed the authorities concerned to implement the pay-scale revised periodically since 1980 for ‘odhuvars’ (temple priests) in the State.
Recital of slokas cannot be measured by clock and temple priests can’t be denied fair salary merely because they recite mantras just for a few hours in a day, Justice R Mahadevan said.
The ‘odhuvars’ in temples joined the government service in 1980 with a pay-scale of Rs 175 and two cups of rice, the judge noted. “Their recitals fill the hearts of devotees and so their services are an integral part of temple administration,” the judge remarked.
The judge was passing orders on a writ petition from Singaravelan of a traditional odhuvar family. He has been working as an odhuvar in Sri Ilanjikumarar temple in Tenkasi, since January 3, 1980. Though he had put in 37 years of service, his services had neither been regularised nor had he been given increments. In 2004, the government fixed salary for staff of temples including odhuvars at Rs 2000-Rs 3200. The order came into force on June 4, 2004 giving effect from July 1, 1997. But despite claims and remainders, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department failed to revise his pay as per the GO.
Subsequently in 2010, the salary of odhuvars was revised and re-fixed as Rs 3,300-9,000. However, no benefits was given to the petitioner even by virtue of the order, prompting Singaravelan to approach the court.
The HR&CE department submitted that the post of odhuvar is not a full-time job like other employees.
This court places its strong opinion in this regard, observing that the service rendered by the odhuvars cannot be measured with the aid of clock, the judge added and directed the department to pass appropriate orders on the plea within six weeks and disposed of the petition.