[Ecumenical News International, Bangalore, India] Church leaders in India’s southern Karnataka state have joined secular groups in criticizing the state government’s decision to give 170 million rupees (US$3 million) to Hindu temples that agree to pray for rain in a drought-wracked monsoon season.
“Lack of rain is a worry for everyone … Let everyone pray for rain. But we cannot approve of the government spending money to conduct prayers in temples,” Bishop John S. Sadananda, head of the Karnataka Southern Diocese of the Church of South India (CSI), told ENInews on July 30.
The Karnataka government, led by the BJP Hindu nationalist political party, said 34,000 Hindu temples would receive the money (an average of US$88 per temple) for prayers on July 27 and August 2. The money is for materials used in the Hindu puja prayer ritual, such as rice, flowers, coconuts, oils and decorations.
“The government should have spent that money to help farmers” affected by the dry conditions, Sadananda said. Critics noted that churches and mosques were receiving no government grants for prayers.
The state government has declared drought conditions in two thirds of the state. Reservoirs are drying up and farmers are unable to till the rock-hard land. The peak monsoon season runs from June to September.
The federal government is also developing emergency plans to deal with the situation in places where agriculture is known as “a gamble in the rain.”
Roman Catholic archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore, head of the Catholic church in Karnataka, directed churches to pray for rain. “The government … should have spent the taxpayers’ money to give succor to the people hit by the drought-like situation,” he said.
A special Mass and adoration for rain was held on July 27 at the Catholic pilgrim center of St. Philomena’s Cathedral in Mysore. Bishop Thomas Vazhappilly of Mysore told ENInews that he has asked priests of the diocese to conduct special prayers for rain.