The Hindu Munnani, a right-wing organisation, of Tamil Nadu has condemned and slammed the state forest department for “collecting an entry fee of Rs 100” from the devotees who visit the Velliangiri Andavar temple in Velliangiri mountains near Coimbatore.
The forest department, however, has denied the charges that they were “forcing” the devotees to pay entry fees. The department has clarified that it is not compulsory for everyone and being collected only from those who are “willing” to pay.
The hill shrine, which has a trek of 5 km to reach the temple, remains open for the devotees between March and May.
With the temple set to open on March 1, the Hindu Munnani staged protests against the “decision of the state forest department to collect an entry fee of Rs 100 from devotees”.
M.R. Mayilvahanan, a devotee from Coimbatore and a district level functionary of Hindu Munnani said, “The collection of Rs 100 as entry fee at the Velliangiri Andavar temple is inappropriate. The forest department in connivance with the state government authorities are trying to milk the Hindu community and we will not allow this.”
Sivaraman, a forest range officer of Boluvampatti range, under whose jurisdiction the Velliangiri Andavar temple comes, told IANS, “The department forcing people to pay money is a lie. We have not yet forced anyone to pay money. The devotees pay voluntarily.
He also said that the amount collected from the devotees is “deposited in the forest department agency account and the money accumulated is used to pay the salary of eco -watchers appointed to prevent devotees from littering and prevent them from taking plastic bottles and other things during the night”.
Meanwhile, the Hindu Makkal Katchi – that works for Hindu tribals – has opposed the posting of private agencies to clean the path to reach the Velliangiri temple situated on top of the hill.
The organization also said that instead of allowing private players, it should be given to the tribal people in the locality which will help them gain some money.