VIJAYAWADA: Barbers working in temples went on an indefinite strike called by the State Nayee Brahmin Welfare Association on Friday, demanding the State government to provide them with a minimum salary of Rs15,000 per month and employee benefit schemes such as ESI and Provident Fund (PF).
Due to the sudden strike called by the barbers, devotees visiting temples faced severe inconvenience. Around 100 barbers staged protest in the tonsuring hall near Durga ghat and raised slogans against the government.
“I came here along with my family to offer my hair to goddess Kanaka Durga. But nows I’m returning to my village since the barbers have staged a protest in the tonsuring hall,” a disappointed devotee, Krishna Kanth, told TNIE.
As many as 147 barbers of Srisailam Mallikharjuna Swamy temple in Kurnool, and 50 barbers of Arasavalli shrine staged a protest at their tonsuring hall by putting their scissors and straight razors on the ground. The union leaders made it clear that they will continue to protest until their demands are met.
There was a similar situation at Simhachalam Narasimha Swamy temple in Visakhapatnam, Arasavalli temple in Srikakulam, and Dwaraka Thirumala in West Godavari district. Dwaraka tirumala Devasthanam faced a Barbers’ agitation for the first time in its history.
Along with the demand for a minimum salary, barbers also asked the State government to pay each barber `5000 as pension. In case a barber died during service, employment to his heir, and `5000 be given to the members of his family on compassionate grounds, they demanded.
In the light of the protest, the Arasavalli temple Executive Officer (EO) Shyamalamma said his temple will go for an alternative arrangement for devotees willing to offer their hair to gods and goddesses unless the problem gets resolved by Sunday.
Meanwhile, 54 barbers working in Simhachalam Devasthanam served notice to the temple EO K Ramachandra Mohan, saying that they will be going on strike from Saturday. The opposition party, YSRC, spoke out in favour of the protesters, as its leaders said they would take up the agitation on behalf of the Nayee Brahmins (barbers).
Deputy chief minister KE Krishna Murthy reacted to the strike by assuring the protesters of resolving their problem by conducting a meeting with its association members and officials on June 18. He requested barbers to withdraw their protest and resume their duties.