It is no secret that the government needs funds to combat Covid and get the requisite medical supplies to contain the flow. Private business has stepped forward, with industry leaders such as Azim Premji and Mukesh Ambani donating for the cause. But the funds have led to a very interesting debate—can our temples also donate some of their wealth for the cause? Recently, a post on social media went viral that Shri Harmendar Sahib (Golden Temple) had offered to bear the full cost of ventilators and PPC requirements for the entire state of Punjab. Later, the veracity of this was questioned and there is no denying that the gurudwara was doing more than its share, feeding around 5 lakh people daily through langars. It did raise an important question as to whether our religious institutions can help donate to the Covid cause. Approximate reports claim that the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, which is reputed to be our richest religious institution, has about 20 billion dollars to its name; the Tirupati Temple is reputed to get donations of Rs 650 crore annually; Shirdi Sai Baba in Mumbai is said to get approximately Rs 360 crore annually, while the Ajmer Dargah is believed to get donations worth Rs 200 crore annually. (Note these are approximates). But even then, there is no disputing the wealth of our temples (both spiritual and it seems financial as well). And what better cause could there be than saving human lives?
Between a prayer and an appeal
As pointed out above, there is no denying that our religious institutions are doing what they can to feed and shelter the homeless, especially our gurudwaras that are known for their charity. Last week, Cabinet Minister and SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal appealed to the PM that approximately one lakh people are being fed by Gurudwara Sisganj Saheb in Delhi and about 5 lakh by the SGPC in Punjab (daily), but were running short of rations due to unavailability; and so could the PM help in making rations available through PDS to the gurudwaras and other institutions doing such a commendable job. According to Harsimrat Badal, the PM wasted no time in listening to her appeal and rations have been available accordingly. Clearly, this is a time when everyone has to work together in tandem.
Even the Congress Plays Ball
Rahul Gandhi’s press conference on Covid did get him some good press, especially his refusal to be drawn into a blame game over the delay in the government’s response to the corona pandemic. Rahul Gandhi has been raising the alarm on the pandemic since February (as can be seen on his Twitter timeline). However, when asked this, Rahul commented that the time to go into recriminations was not now, for the country needed to be united in its response. Interestingly, this is not just Rahul’s response, but most Congress leaders are adopting this line. Others such as Capt Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot and Manish Tewari have appeared on interviews on NewsX and refused to be drawn into a similar blame game. And it is indeed refreshing to see this kind of a united front when the nation is facing such a grave threat. Interestingly, Rahul has been meeting professionals and businessmen (via video conferencing) and worrying about the economic fallout of the crisis. It is during these meetings that he coined his favourite phrase—we need a “smarter lockdown”. And it does seem the government has thought along those lines on Lockdown 2.0.
Some Dialogues should be Censored
It looks like not just the media and the thought brigade is debating the role of the Tablighi Jamaat as super spreaders, but so is Bollywood. Recently, Swara Bhaskar and Babita Phogat had a Twitter exchange on the subject, with Swara Bhaskar pointing to the fact that the Tablighi Jamaat congregation was given permission by Delhi Police and Babita’s rejoinder blaming the Tablighi Jamaat for being super spreaders (this is a mild translation of the conversion on their Twitter timelines). Then, Twitter had to suspend the account of Rangoli Chandel, sister of actor Kangana Ranaut, for posting a tweet inciting communal hatred tweeting—“Make these mullahs and secular media stand in line and shoot them.” The tweet raised shocked eyebrows among twitteratti and Rangoli’s account was suspended after Farah Khan lodged an FIR against this hate speech. That’s one for the debate on censorship.