The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the Lord Venkateshwara temple on Tirumala hills of Andhra Pradesh, is planning to shift 44 non-Hindu persons working in various temple services against guidelines to other departments.
As per the guidelines of the temple, which is the richest in the world, non-Hindus cannot work in any of its services. Though non-Hindus can visit and have a view of Lord Venkateshwara, they should sign a register before entering the queue complex declaring that they have faith in the Hindu god.
TTD executive officer Anil Kumar Singhal said notices had been issued all the 44 non-Hindu employees seeking explanations.
The authorities want to know whether any of them hid their true religious identities at the time of recruitment. The issue pertains specifically to seven people who were appointed even after the rules were changed. If they had produced wrong certificates at the time of recruitment, action will be taken against them, say authorities.
“We are contemplating sending them to other state government departments in the equivalent cadres and scales,” Singhal told the media on Friday. “The Andhra Pradesh government has agreed to consider their deputation to other departments.”
The controversy over the working of non-Hindus in the TTD surfaced following a sting operation done by a local spiritual television channel on a senior woman TTD official who regularly goes to churches in the temple town in her official vehicle.
The operation evoked strong protests from the local Hindu organisations, who alleged that there were several such persons and demanded that they be dropped from service.
Following complaints, the TTD administration asked chief vigilance and security officer A Ravi Krishna to conduct an inquiry and identify the non-Hindus in the temple services.
The inquiry revealed that the woman officer had been appointed in the TTD in 1986, when there was no restriction on the appointment of non-Hindus in the temple administration, which was only following the rule of reservations.
According to TTD sources, in 1988, an order was issued banning the recruitment of non-Hindus in temple administration except in the educational institutions run by it.
Again in 2007, another government order was issued banning recruitment of non-Hindus even in educational institutions. The official inquiry revealed that as many as 35 non-Hindus were recruited between 1988 and 2007 in various cadres.
Surprisingly, even after the fresh order issued 2007, another seven non-Hindus were recruited in TTD against the guidelines.
“In all, we have identified 44 such persons who are working in TTD deviating the guidelines. Majority of them were employed under compassionate category while some contract employees of other religious faiths also got regularised. We shall now send them to various other government departments, so that only Hindus would be working for the Tirumala temple,” Singhal said.
In a bid to avoid further controversy over non-Hindus getting into Tirumala through backdoor methods, the TTD is planning to enforce a condition for all its employees — that they should all sport “Thiru Namam” (a mark on the forehead having vertical thin line of vermillion with thick vertical lines of white clay on either side joined at the bottom between two eyebrows).
“This Thiru Namam symbolises Hindu culture. And only those with staunch faith in Hinduism sport it. This will ensure that all those working in Tirumala are only Hindus,” a TTD spokesman said.