After homes and restaurants, the faithful of Shirdi are the latest to feel the burden of the hike in prices of food grains and vegetables.
The Shirdi temple trust — one of the richest in the country — has raised by Rs 4 the price of the prasad sold to devotees of Sai Baba at the temple, as of January 1.
And the rate hike applies only to the general public — privileged devotees, including the rich and the famous, will continue to pay the old rate.
For general devotees, the trust has hiked prasad price from Rs 6 to Rs 10 — for VIPs, the rate stays the same, at Rs 25. Devotees reacted angrily, expressing disappointment over the hike as well as the discrimination.
According to information from the trust, the temple gets an average of Rs 350 crore in donations every year. The trust said it currently loses Rs 25 crore every year because of the subsidy on prasad rates.
“The trust subsidises the prasad offered to every person by around Rs 17. However, with increased prices of vegetables and foodgrains, it is impossible to hold the old rates, which is why the trust has hiked prasad rates,” said Urmila Jadhav, a trustee.
The trust has not touched the Rs 5 slab of prasad for children.
Pune local Varsha Kulkarni, who visited the temple with her family, said: “This trust has earnings running into crores. Why don’t they offer free prasad? And hiking rates for the poor and retaining those for the rich is discriminatory.”
At temples across the country, devotees get prasad free of cost. Some of them — like the one at Shegaon, where thousands come to worship the saint Gajanan Maharaj — even offer free meals to all devotees every day.
The trustees have now said they will also consider hiking prasad rates for the rich.
“We had proposed hiking VIP rates also, from Rs 25 to Rs 50, but some trustees opposed it. Now, we will consider it in the next meeting,” said Jadhav.
Around 25,000 devotees visit Shirdi on weekends. On auspicious days, like Ram Navami, around two lakh devotees come to the Sai Baba shrine.