Council ruckus over honorarium to pastors, imams

VIJAYAWADA: The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council witnessed a ruckus on Friday over the provision for monthly honorarium to pastors, imams and Mouzams in the name of promoting religious harmony.

The 42nd session on its last day, presided over by chairman Koyyenu Moshenu Raju, took up Question Hour, starting with the queries raised by MLCs Lella Appi Reddy, Mahammad Ruhulla and Shaik Mohammad Iqbal. They wanted to know whether the state government was providing monthly honorariums to pastors, imams and mouzams in the state.

Deputy chief minister for minority affairs, Amzad Basha Shaik Behari, replied that the government was providing Rs 10,000 to imams and Rs 5,000 each to mouzams and pastors. He said that in the previous Telugu Desam rule, the imams and mouzams were given Rs 5,000 and Rs 3,000 respectively per month. The YSRC government enhanced these to Rs 10,000 and Rs 5,000 respectively and also cleared the arrears left by the TD government, of the order of Rs 12 crore.

The deputy CM maintained that the YSRC government was committed to the cause of secularism and wanted to promote harmony among all religions. “With this aim in mind, we are providing the honorariums,” he said.

PDF MLCs Venkateswara Rao and V. Balasubramanyam and BJP MLC P.V.N. Madhav raised objection to this. They asked how providing honorariums would help promote religious harmony. Balasubramanyam said, “The state government if it wants, can provide welfare to the poor among the religious functionaries, not to all.”

Madhav and others wanted the state government to discontinue the practice as “it meant discrimination.” Only priests/preachers from some religions were being given honorarium while those from other religions were being denied of this, he said.

Rival sides entered into a heated argument. Chairman Raju noted that this was a policy decision taken by the state government. Members could express their opinions but could not dictate terms to the state government.

Deputy CM Amzad Basha said they had received several applications from religious leaders seeking honorarium. “So far, we paid the honorarium worth ₹25,589.94 lakhs to imams and mouzams from June, 2019 to March 5, 2023. Based on eligibility, we would extend the honorarium to more religious leaders in future,” he said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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