Time-trader at Indian Temples

What if you could trade your time for money? And what if you knew that your government trades your time with other people, but instead of giving you the money, pockets it itself?

Time trading can be good idea. You would have heard on the internet how a father used to walk 50 minutes to save 20 rupees, while the son spends 50 rupees to save 20 minutes! Both are right in their own way, depending on their priorities. But with certain policies of the government-controlled temples in India, people are forcefully ‘donating’ their time, to fill the coffers of the government / temple trusts!

Major temples in India have huge queues, taking you from one hour to one day, just to enter the temple and take ‘Darshan’ or just a sight of the main idol. Temples are a great leveler, where both rich and poor come to take blessings from God. Or so it was in the past. Enter ‘quick Darshan’ or shortcut entry, where you are allowed to break the queue, officially. In India, as long as you can pay up, you can go ahead of the other people who have stood for hours in the queue, and will still be standing after you are gone, in many temples like the Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai, to the Tirupati temple in Tirumala. People pay anything between Rs. 50 and Rs. 300 to break the queue, and make other people wait, so that you get Darshan, and the temple, which is run by the government, gets its money. The ‘non payers’ have to wait longer, but in return for wasted time, they get nothing—the government or temple authority has already pocketed it.

Just from fees for darshan and rituals, the Tirumala Tirupati temple expects around 290 crore rupees (~41 million USD) in revenues in 2019-20! So people of India will pay hundreds of crores just to visit the temple! And those who don’t pay up, can take from 3 hours to 20 hours, just to enter the temple for darshan. It can take more time if VIP darshan is happening. But there are some good steps taken by the temple recently, such as banning three separate types of VIP darshan. However, a new rule will now allow VIP darshan for those who can shell Rs. 10,000. They have specifically said this money will be used for benefit of the hindu religion (what do you do with the other money then?).  Siddhivinayak temple only charges Rs. 50 for breaking the queue, so it only cuts half your queue time due to large number of people in the queue who decide to pay up. Simple principle of volume vs margin! Though they too allow a VIP darshan for a family of four, for 1,000 rupees. So while you wonder why your queue isn’t moving, you know who to blame!

The funny thing is not that it happens, but that most people don’t even think it is funny or absurd. That is what my artificial intelligence fails to understand!

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