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'Obnoxious' practice of VVIP, preferential treatment in temples to privileged people

By NS Venkataraman* 

In the earlier days, there was restriction for entry in the place of worship for people based on caste and creed. This practice prevailed in several religions. Though such practice has now been largely given up due to proactive campaign, the practice is still prevalent in some places. Hopefully, this practice would go away completely soon.
While the above practice is under debate for several years now, the most obnoxious practice seen today is the practice of providing preferential entry in the place of worship for those who pay entry fee, as against those who do not pay or who cannot afford to pay entry fee and opt for free darshan.
Such people not paying entry fee often wait in the queue for long time (sometime several hours), even as they see the people paying fee getting quick entry and the so called VIPs , who could be ministers or celebrities such as sports persons, cinema actors or rich business persons or top officials of the government , straightaway being taken for darshan without waiting.
It is even more obnoxious to see the condition, where the darshan for devotees are completely stopped when a person like President, Governor or ministers visit the place of worship.
Unfortunately ,there is no discussion or protest about such undesirable practice of giving preferential entry in the place of worship for some people and denying it to others.

How can devotees be treated differently?

The question here is as to how any difference can be observed between the people, even in the place of worship.
Obviously, it is the belief that God would not distinguish between the devotees based on money power or the position held in the society. In other words, in the place of worship, all people should be treated equally and this is the basic dictum in all religions from time immemorial.
It is famously said that death is a great equalizer. Should not the devotees getting preferential entry , be conscious about this fact that death event make no difference between the rich and the poor people? What is applicable to the death event should be equally applicable to the life event also, particularly in the place of worship.

Who is responsible?

There are two players responsible for such obnoxious practice of having preferential entry to some so called “privileged people” and denying it to others.
One is the administrators of the place of worship who seem to view the administration of the place of worship largely as commercial activity and think that collecting entry fee is nothing wrong. These administrators are guilty of introducing undesirable “VIP culture" in place of worship for whatever reasons.
The other guilty people are those who pay entry fee to get quick entry and the so called VIPs who get free and ready entry , unmindful of the feelings of frustration of those who cannot afford to pay or who do not want to pay as a matter of principle. These people fail to realise that those who do not pay entry fee and forced to wait in the queue for long time are as genuine devotees, as those who gain entry at the cost of others by using their money power or position in the society.
The entry fee paying devotees to get quick entry and the so called VIPs getting free and ready entry are self centred people , who try to get advantage for themselves over others. They are also responsible for creating sort of “class difference” in the place of worship , which is absolutely unacceptable.

What would saints say?

Several mythological stories reveal as to how God bless poor and sincere devotees, more than those who visit place of worship using money power and sometimes with pomp and show .
Mahatma Gandhi said, “I hate privilege and monopoly. Whatever cannot be shared with the masses is taboo to me.” ('Harijan', 2nd November 1934)
Certainly, great Indian saints like Kanchi Paramacharya and Bhgawan Sri Ramana Maharshi would have disapproved the money power playing a role in providing entry to the place of worship.
What is urgently required is that all genuine devotees, whatever may be their wealth or position in the society , should decide that they would not seek any special privilege for them in getting quick or ready entry.
If some Governors or ministers cannot wait in the queue with other devotees due to security or other reasons, let them not visit the place of worship or let them visit after shedding their so called special status.
---
*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, Chennai

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