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Govt-led Body to Take Control of Uttarakhand's 51 Shrines, Priests Fear Losing Age-old Hold over Temples

Kedarnath temple.

Kedarnath temple.

As many as 51 shrines, including Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri, would now be under the direct control of the state government after the governor recently gave her assent to the Char Dham Devsthanam Management Bill passed during the Assembly's winter session.

Dehradun: A state government-led body will soon take over the management of Uttarakhand’s large number of shrines.

As many as 51 shrines, including Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri, would now be under the direct control of the state government after Governor Baby Rani Maurya recently gave her assent to the Char Dham Devsthanam Management Bill that was passed during the winter session of the Assembly.

Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said the new Act will help in the professional management of the revered shrines that are visited by lakhs of people every year. In 2019, over three million people visited the four shrines in the hill state.

“The new legislation will help manage the crowd professionally and will work towards providing better facilities to the pilgrims. Cleaning remains one of the focus areas and we will ensure that it’s taken care of”, Rawat told News18.

According to the Act, the CM will be the board’s president, while a senior officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) will become the chief executive office. The new law has the provision to sack a priest if he is found involved in any ‘wrongdoing’.

There has been widespread resentment ever since the government decided to introduce the bill. Several priests fear the new system will curtail their role and duties which they and their families have been engaged with since decades.

However, Shiv Prasad Mamgain, vice chairman of the Char Dham Vikas Parishad, said, “The government has no intention to disturb the age-old traditions or curtail duties of any priest.”

Leaders of the opposition Congress are unable to buy the argument. State Congress president Pritam Singh said if his party is voted to power, the Act would be revoked.

The Congress has been at the forefront of protests, led by local priests, against new Act.