Srivari Seva volunteers selling TTD's agarbattis in Tirumala on Sunday.
TIRUPATI: The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) engaging the services of Srivari Seva volunteers for selling its Panchagavya products and incense sticks (agarbattis) etc is attracting mixed responses from devotees.
Critics raise the question whether the Srivari Sevaks, who came to serve Lord Venkateswara and his devotees, should sell TTD’s products. Does this amount to a service or sales, they ask.
TTD officials justify their action by saying the products were launched in a bid to promote the age-old practice of using cow-based products among the people.
It was with a view to offering better service to the devotees that the TTD launched Srivari Seva voluntary service in the year 2000. Lakhs of volunteers extended their services to the Lord and his devotees in the name of Srivari Seva. So much so, this has grown into a major initiative and an inseparable part of TTD.
Their services are being utilised in over five dozen areas of major pilgrim interface including vigilance, health, annaprasadam, laddu prasadam, book stalls, garden, temple, etc.
When contacted, TTD PRO, T. Ravi told Deccan Chronicle that selling Agarbattis and Panchagavya products was also a part of Srivari seva. "TTD has launched agarbattis and panchagavya products with the intention of promoting cow-based products in a big way. So, they cannot be seen as commercial products. And, we don’t force Srivari sevaks to do a particular service, be it managing the queues, serving annaprasadam, or selling TTD diaries, calendars and products," the PRO maintained.
However, critics disapprove of the TTD utilising the services of volunteers for selling the temple body’s products at makeshift stalls in Tirumala. "Srivari Seva volunteers are here to serve the Lord and his devotees. Expanding this seva for selling TTD products will in the long run be against the interests of the TTD. The temple body should limit its service to devotees only and not for earning money," observed Naveen Reddy, a Congress leader.
"Srivari sevaks say they derive utmost satisfaction and spiritual solace by serving devotees in any form. Each volunteer will be assigned duties in different sevas. Accordingly, some were engaged in selling TTD products, and they were asked only to explain about them, while the TTD staff are engaged in selling these products," the PRO said.
BJP spokesperson Samanchi Srinivas supported the TTD’s decision to engage Srivari Sevaks in selling panchagavya products. "As volunteers, they came to serve the TTD and the devotees. Sale of Panchagavya products is not a commercial exercise as it promotes our age-old practices. So, there is nothing wrong in it," he claimed.