Explained: What is the Uttarakhand Chardham Devasthanam Management Act and why was BJP forced to repeal it

ttarakhand is often called Devbhoomi due to the presence of a large number of temples and the Char Dham – Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamnotri.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami yesterday announced the scrapping of the Chardham Devasthanam Board as well as the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019, reversing a two-year-old decision taken by his predecessor and then CM Trivendra Singh Rawat. Since the Act came into force, the priests of temples from across the state had been protesting against it. After two years of continuous protest from the priests and a repeated deadline by the state government, the Dhami government agreed to repeal the law.

What is Uttarakhand Chardham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019?

Uttarakhand is often called Devbhoomi due to the presence of a large number of temples and the Char Dham – Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamnotri. Constituted during the tenure of Rawat, the Act was brought in 2019 to allow the government to control the affairs of 51 temples across the state including the char dham. The Rawat government had constituted the Chardham Devasthanam Board to manage the affairs including framing of policies, fixing of budget and sanction expenditure, overseeing the safe custody, prevention and management of funds, valuable securities, jewellery and properties of the temples. While the Chief Minister of the state was designated as the chairman of the board, the minister for religious affairs was the vice-chairman, two MLAs of Gangotri and Yamnotri were Chief Secretary and member of the board and a senior IAS officer was made the Chief Executive Officer.

Why were priests against the act?
Priests, pandas and Rawals associated with different temples and shrines were against the act. They alleged that the government was encroaching upon their rights by trying to control the donations and the temple lands. The opposition parties including the Congress and the AAP had extended their support to the priests. The Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, the top body of seers, had also announced to launch a protest against the BJP government.

Why did the government scrap the law?

The priests of the shrines are often considered very influential and no political party can afford to ignore their demands. Uttarakhand is slated to go to assembly elections next year and the BJP did not want to let the opposition cash in on the issue, which could have had an adverse impact on the BJP’s vote share. The BJP government had formed a high-level committee to look into the Devasthanam Board issue and the committee had submitted its recommendations to him in Rishikesh on Sunday. “We went through the details of the report submitted by the panel headed by Manohar Kant Dhyani. After considering all aspects of the issue, our government has decided to withdraw the Act,” Chief Minister Dhami said.

What did the priests and Congress say after the announcement?

Chardham priests described the scrapping of the Board as a result of the sustained pressure they had mounted on the government to scrap it. They also thanked CM Dhami and prayed for his long life. Congress’ campaign head for Uttarakhand and former Chief Minister Harish Rawat described it as a victory for the priests’ community. “As in the case of the three agri laws, arrogance has once again been defeated. The BJP has taken the decision sensing its imminent defeat in the coming polls. It is a victory of the priests who refused to budge. I congratulate them,” he said.

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