Tirupati Balaji temple in Andhra Pradesh, country's richest Hindu temple of Lord Venkateshwara, has reportedly ousted 1,300 contractual workers amid the coronavirus outbreak. The workers, who were engaged in shrine's sanitation and hospitality work, were asked not to come for duties from May 1, citing the suspension of work due to the nationwide lockdown.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) board, the trust that manages the hill abode of Lord Venkateswara, did not renew the contract, which expired on April 30. YV Subba Reddy, the chairman of the temple's trust, said that the firm supplying the manpower was intimated that their services were discontinued. He, however, assured to look into the issue on humanitarian grounds.
"The contract entered into by the TTD with the manpower agency which supplied workers ended on April 30. Normally, fresh tenders would have been called by now for awarding of the contract to the agency which bids the lowest amount for manpower supply. Because of the lockdown, the TTD trust board could not meet and finalise the tender," TTD official spokesman T Ravi told Hindustan Times.
"Everything was done as per the rules. Moreover, there is no work for these workers now, because of the lockdown, all guest houses are closed," Ravi said.
In view of the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, the TTD board has imposed a total suspension of darshan for pilgrims in Tirumala temple since March 20. Apart from main temple, 50 sub-temples under the administration of TTD have also been closed.
The board had announced the temple's closure till May 3, following the extension of the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus. The temple's trust is yet to take a call on extension of closure of the shrine as the Centre announced the third phase of the lockdown, beginning May 4.
This is the first time in 128 years that the temple has been closed for pilgrims. The temple with a 2000-year-old history only closed for religious rituals and solar moon eclipses but never for a temporary period.