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Thousands of temple barbers in Andhra Pradesh go on strike demanding fixed wages

For the last few days, barbers have been demanding a fixed salary of Rs 15,000 with pension and provident fund facility. At present, the temples pay the barbers on piece rate basis, at the rate of Rs 13 for each tonsuring.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2018 20:47 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Barbers strike,Andhra Pradesh,Temple barbers
Tonsuring of heads and offering hair to the gods by devotees to fulfil their vow and get a wish granted is an age-old tradition in many temples across the country. (Shutterstock Photo)

Demanding fixed wages and job security, thousands of barbers working in various temples of Andhra Pradesh went on a sudden strike on Friday and put devotees into inconvenience.

Barbers from the famed temple of Lord Venkateshwara in Tirumala did not join the protest.

Tonsuring of heads and offering hair to the gods by devotees to fulfil their vow and get a wish granted is an age-old tradition in many temples across the country.

The barbers’ strike has upset devotees, as they were forced to return without offering their hair, regardless of the grant of wishes.

Prominent among the temples which witnessed barbers’ strike were: Sri Vara Siddhi Vinayaka temple at Kanipakam in Chittoor district, Bhramaramba Mallikarjuna Swamy temple at Srisailam in Kurnool district, Kanaka Durga temple in Vijayawada, Suryanarayana Swamy temple at Arasavalli in Srikakulam district, Dwaraka Tirumala temple in West Godavari district, Sri Satyanarayana Swamy temple at Annavaram of East Godavari district and Sri Varaha Narasimha Swamy temple at Simhachalam of Visakhapatnam.

For the last few days, barbers have been demanding a fixed salary of Rs 15,000 with pension and provident fund facility. At present, the temples pay the barbers on piece rate basis, at the rate of Rs 13 for each tonsuring.

“We are not able to make both ends meet with this paltry wage. On some lean days, we end up earning less than Rs 100 a day. How can we run our families and give education to our children? We want implementation of minimum wages for barbers,” a barber at Kanaka Durga temple demanded.

In Tirumala temple, which witnesses maximum number of head tonsures daily, there are no reports of any strike by barbers. There are around 900 barbers working in Kalyana Katta (the temple saloon), of whom about 500 barbers are permanent and others work on contract. Permanent barbers are paid regular salaries, an average of Rs 25,000 per month while those on contract basis are paid Rs 20 per each tonsuring.

Tonsuring of heads of pilgrims fetches huge income to all these temples every year. Every year, the TTD alone auctions human hair and earns Rs 150–200 crore.

First Published: Jun 15, 2018 14:59 IST