The ‘Laksha Chandi Maha Yagya’ that is reportedly being organised with support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), came under scanner on Monday after the organisers paid ‘dakshina’ (donation given after a religious ceremony) in scrapped Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 banknotes to around 2,000 priests.
The Chairman of Haryana Livestock Development Board, Rishi Prakash Sharma, was an active organiser of the nine-day-long event that was also attended by education minister Ram Bilas Sharma and agriculture minister OP Dhankar.
Around 2,000 priests were called from Vrindavan, Ujjain and Mathura to recite shlokas in accordance to the rituals of the yagya. At the end, each of them was given around Rs 3,000 - Rs 5,000 as dakshina. However, the amount comprised of demonetised banknotes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500.
Angered by this, the priests questioned the organisers about it. They also asked how they will return to their homes without valid cash. However, it is learnt that initially the organisers did not pay any heed to their protests. Later, to pacify some of them, they increased the amount to Rs 5,100 and arranged bus tickets for some of them.
Sources at the venue estimated that around Rs 80 lakh in demonetised banknotes were distributed to the priests.
Rishi Prakash Sharma however termed the reports to be “false”. “As per the rituals, every member in the organising committee had pledged for the sadhus and had brought them here. It was up to them to give the dakshina. We did not even check that they were given demonetised banknotes until we found that some priests had problems in arranging their return tickets.”
He added, “What is wrong in it? Giving scrapped banknotes in daan (donation) is valid up to December 30.”
The BJP leader said they had earlier decided to issue cheques to the priests. However, he claimed the priests were “reluctant” to accept that. “The dakshina was around Rs 3,500 to Rs 5,000 given to each priest. This is not a huge amount to be worried of,” he said.