Agra, Aug 15 (ANI): Clerics, who conduct prayers in historic Mughal mosques in Agra have called upon the administration to hike their pay from a paltry sum of Rs. 15.
The clerics said the salary was barely enough for even a day's expense, forcing them to survive on donations made by devotees who prayed at the mosques.
The clerics criticised the disparity between their salary and the amount paid to the cleaners and caretakers of the mosques.
"15 rupees is worth practically nothing today. The person cleaning the mosque is paid 15,000 rupees, while a cleric leading prayers at the same mosque is paid 15 rupees. I make ends meet by teaching a few children," said Syed Sadiq Ali, cleric at the Taj Mahal Mosque in Agra.
The salary was a continuation of a Mughal tradition, whereby the 'imam', the cleric who leads the faithful in prayer, was paid fifteen gold coins a month.
The British changed the sum to 15 silver coins. After independence, the amount was changed to 15 rupees.
Inflation has left the sum at worth 33 cents only, though repeated pleas by the clerics for a pay hike have fallen on deaf ears.
The response of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the agency entrusted with the care of India's monuments, said that there was no proof that the fifteen gold coin salary was given on a regular basis.
Indra Dhar Dwivedi, Superintendent Archaeologist of the ASI in Agra, said that the respect enjoyed by a cleric was a reward in itself.
He also said that as far as wages were concerned, the responsibility rested with the administration.
"The cleric's position in society is one that is respected greatly. To equate that with wages is unfair. However, we have forwarded the request for hike in wages to the administration, with favourable comments on our part," Dwivedi said. (ANI)