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Friday, June 9, 2023

DMK govt to take over temple-run schools under School Education Department

The DMK government in Tamil Nadu has announced its intention to take over schools run by temples and bring them under the control of the School Education Department. The move is seen as an attempt to destroy whatever little rights temples have in running institutions. Activists have criticised the move as the presence of the government in temples itself is a violation.

TN finance minister PTR Palanivel Thiyagarajan presented the 2023-24 budget recently. While presenting the budget, he announced that schools run by departments other than the School Education Department will be brought under the department’s control. This includes schools run by temples that are controlled by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) board. Schools run by Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare, Backward Class, Most Backward Class and Denotified Communities departments are also to be brought under the School Education Department. 

The minister said that the objective of this move is to “achieve the goal of social justice in the field of education, to improve the quality of schools functioning under various departments, and to ensure that all students are provided with quality education”. The decision was taken after requests were made to bring Adi Dravidar schools under the School Education Department. ‘Dalit’ party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi(VCK), a DMK ally, has welcomed the move saying they have been demanding the same as Adi Dravidar schools otherise children from Adi Dravida castes and provide poor education.

While bringing poorly performing schools of other departments under the School Education Department may have its reasons, including temple run schools is purely an anti-Hindu act. Other schools are run with funds allocated by the government from its own pocket. But schools under HRCE were built on temple land and run using temple money. Temple activists have called out this blatant violation of Hindu rights.

In many temples which HRCE controls, Executive officers are fraudulently appointed without following proper procedures which the Madras High Court had condemned. From being taken over to build colleges to fish markets, temple properties and money are much abused by the government and whoever dares to speak about it is threatened by the HRCE minister himself. HRCE officials and ministers misused temple money to buy cars, and toilet ware and sponsor their meetings. 

When HRCE, which has Hindu in its name itself, works against Hindu interests, how can a secular department predominantly occupied by people of other faiths run the schools established by temples objectively? When HRCE has no right over such schools and should act only as the overseer hand over them to the government? It is to be noted that minority-run institutions have absolute immunity from such actions even though multiple crimes, especially against children, are reported. They have this immunity despite the fact that they are funded by the government, in the form of salary in the case of aided schools and in the form of subsidies through sectarian schemes like IDMI in the case of private ones. 

Educational institutions run by temples should be used to further and strengthen the religiosity of its students and spread the dharma. That right was curbed by HRCE taking over temple management and the institutions run by them. The pretense of the secular government staying away from them has fallen away now with the DMK government’s decision. Now with more intervention from the secular state it will be no surprise if the students are turned against dharma.

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