DEHRADUN: As religious tourism has been hit badly in Uttarakhand due to COVID-19 crisis, priests are opting for odd jobs including factory workers.
Many priests from Haridwar including the 'Ganga Temple' at Har ki Pairi have opted to work in factories in evening shift to sustain themselves.
Devdutt Sharma, chief priest of the temple told The New Indian Express, "Due to coronavirus, no devotees are coming to pay their respects and tributes to the deities. It has become difficult to pay all the priests regularly as we used to do earlier."
The pandemic has hit the religious institutions so hard that providing salaries and ration has become difficult for the temples in Haridwar.
Apart from the chief priest of the temple, total 8 'Vedpathi' (Vedic scholars acting as priests) are employed to take care of temple duties shift wise.
Morning shift which starts at 5, include the work of ceremonial bath and other rituals while second shift start at 2pm and ends at 11pm.
All the employed priests are allocated shifts rotation wise to handle devotees and other work of the temple which has been disrupted due to the epidemic.
Santosh Pandey, who has taken up work in a factory in outskirts of Haridwar said, "Many of us have opted to work in the factories after the government opened them. Atleast we won't starve now and will be able to meet our basic needs."
The priests by working in factories are earn between Rs 8000-12,000 per month.
Many also appealed to Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat to help them in this hour of financial scarcity.
The state government had cancelled Kanwar Yatra this year in the wake of epidemic which hit religious tourism in Haridwar the hardest after Char Dham Yatra. However, the Char Dham Yatra was allowed from June 2020 for state residents and later for residents of other states too since last month giving some respite to the sector.
The devotees of 'Kanwar Yatra' come from the places like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Last year, more than 3.5 crore devotees visited Haridwar through the yatra in the auspicious month.