A private temple (for commercial electrical connection) which is not under the purview of the Department of Hindu Religious Affairs is priced at Rs. 5.00 per unit for 0 to 100 units and Rs. 8.05 per unit if it exceeds 100 units, as per the RTI data.
Controversy has erupted over the past year over alleged discrimination in electricity tariffs for temples, churches and mosques in Tamil Nadu. They went viral claiming that temples are charged Rs 8 per unit, churches and mosques at Rs 2.85 per unit. It is noteworthy that this rumour later spread across India. We had published an article in Youturn mentioning that all public places of worship are charged the same fee.
Mr biased journalist @ImAvudaiappan, do you remember the question you asked me about electricity bil? is this still fake news? What you gonna say for this RTI ? Apology or Accept that you are part of the presstitution. And stop being Bitch like behavior in Media. pic.twitter.com/NNwyJsSrco
— Varma cartoonist (@CartoonistVarma) July 10, 2020
However, there is currently a controversy over RTI information obtained on electricity tariffs for places of worship, including temples, churches and mosques. Ramesh, a member of the Thiruvarur All India Hindu Maha Sabha, filed a petition last December and was responded to by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Generation and Distribution Corporation, Thiruvarur’s Executive Engineer (Operating & Maintenance), this has been shared on social media.
A reply for the petition dated 20.11.2019 is sought under the Right to Information Act 2005 and is as follows.
“1. Temples directly owned by the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments
2. The temples under the supervision of the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments only
- Islam religion worship place, Mosque
5. Christianity worship place, church (Church, Devalayam)
For all the above places of worship, electricity is charged at Ra. 2.85 per unit from 0 to 120 units and Rs. 5.75 per unit for over 120 units.
3. Private temples (for commercial electrical connection) which are not under the purview of the Department of Hindu Religious Affairs are kindly informed to pay Rs.5.00 per unit for 0 to 100 units and Rs.8.05 per unit for over 100 units.”
The first thing to understand from this information is the earlier statement that all temples are discriminated against by charging Rs. 8 per unit and Rs. 2.85 per unit for churches and mosques is misleading. All temples operating under the direct control and supervision of the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments are charged Rs.2.85 per unit for the usage from 0 to 120 units. The same applies to other public places of worship belonging to other religions including churches and mosques.
A commercial electrical connection is provided to private temples which are not under the purview of the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments. Such temples were not initially charged at Rs. 8 per unit as a base fee. They are charged Rs.5.00 per unit for 0 to 100 units and Rs.8.05 per unit if the usage exceeds 100 units. There are numerous temples here, from the smallest to the largest, which do not operate under the control and supervision of the government. They are run by private organizations or individuals. When we reached Mathivanan, Executive Engineer, Tamil Nadu Electricity Generation and Distribution Corporation, Thiruvarur which is mentioned in RTI, on behalf of Youturn to find out whether the tariff applies only to temples that receive such commercial connections or also to other religious worship places, including churches and mosques,
“Temples under the Department of Hindu Religious Affairs and private temples are charged the fee as mentioned therein. The fee is the same for all public places of worship. However, there is a change in the fee for miniature temples built at individual’s houses, temples built for themselves, private organizations or temples without public worship. Similarly, places of worship of other religions, including churches and mosques, will be charged a government-mandated fee if they are public worship places, and private worship places will be charged private temple tariffs if they are commercially connected without public worship”, he clarified.
It is learned from the information provided by the executive engineer that there is a difference in fees for private religious places of worship including temples, churches and mosques which are commercially connected from the fee for the public worship placed. There is a difference in electricity tariff between private places of worship (e.g. Isha Center, prayer hall buildings, small temples set up in houses) and public places of worship.
On the Facebook page of Delta Hindu Maha Sabha, they have requested the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu referring the RTI information to fix the same fee for all places of worship without discriminating between a temple run under the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments and a private temple which is not under the Department.
From the information available, the difference in fees mentioned in the information obtained through RTI can be understood as the difference between the fixed fee for public places of worship of all religions and the fee for all religious private places of worship that are commercially affiliated.