People vote in a new party hoping better results from the incoming government. The Jagan Mohan Reddy government came to power in Andhra Pradesh, dethroning Chandrababu Naidu, riding high hopes of better governance and more solace to people. A few months down the lane, the YSR Congress Party government seems to have lost sight of its priorities. Some of its decisions have taken the shine out of the new government faster than it usually happens. The decision to pay Rs. 5,000 as a monthly honorarium to Christian pastors is a populist and sectarian move which goes against the secular credentials of the nation. Paying off for religious work from public exchequer is against the very values the pastors stand for.
Pastors/priests are not public servants entitled to draw benefits from tax payers’ money. They serve the community, but not in the way government servants do. They are not selected by the government nor elected by the people to any public office. They are supposed to be supported by the very same community which they serve in spiritual and other realms. Payment of honorarium by the government will send out a wrong message of appeasement of one religion over others.
The decision also suffers from other shortcomings. With denominations galore among Christians, including numerous independent churches, chances are that the number of claimants will mushroom, opening up a pandora’s box. A community which is at the receiving end of communal forces will be unnecessarily exposing itself to allegations of parochialism and favoritism. The budgeted amount in this regard can be better utilized for lending a helping hand to the poor and the marginalized for whom a government is the sole saviour. Pastors can do better without the loaves that fall from the high tables of those in power. They should better say ‘No, thanks’ to the offer and stand for values rather than valuables. It is naïve to put forward the flawed argument that Hindu priests are also given salary by the government. They are apparently paid not from tax payers’ money but from the revenue from temples which are governed by government.
The focus of the government should be the progress and prosperity of every person irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Governments come and go, but people should be benefited from their policies. In this regard, Jagan government’s decision to put on hold the development of Amaravati as the State Capital, initiated by the previous Naidu government, smacks of vendetta politics. What is at stake is thousands of crores of rupees, employment of lakhs of people and development of an entire area. If there are corrupt practices in the projects involved, action should be taken against those whose hands are stained. Annulling scores of projects which are partially completed is nothing but colossal loss of scarce public money. A successor government should not scrap everything initiated by the previous government. Cancelling projects will have tremendous economic loss: one, payment of huge compensation; and two, the new tenders will lead to huge cost escalation. Jagan Mohan Reddy government seems to burn the hut to kill the rat.(Published on 16th September 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 38)