Question 15. It is the bitter experience of Hindu pilgrims that they are exploited and harassed by unscrupulous Pandas priests in the pilgrim centre. How can this be eradicated?
This is a fundamental problem. Or, rather, it is the symptom of a fundamental problem. Hence, one should go to its root, to be able to solve it. The Pandas and priests exploit and hams the pilgrim for the sake of money. Its cause is poverty. Lack of proper education and culture has worsened it further. As a result, they have lost whatever respect and status they once enjoyed in our society. That these professions are hereditary is another cause for their degradation since they can get them without any competition or training.
A commission of experts in this field should study this problem in depth and prescribe proper remedies. However, an attempt may be made here to suggest some remedies at least:
These professions should not be hereditary.
Those interested and inclined towards it should be given a thorough training spread over twelve years. During the period of training, the students should be provided with free board and lodging as also attractive scholarships.
Only those who have successfully completed such training, should be appointed as priests and Pandas. It is equally necessary that they be well paid, the salary being at least equal to that of a lecturer in a college.
They should discharge their duties on rotation basis.
They must have a say in the administration of the temples and pilgrim centres.
Our society should learn to look upon them with greater regard and reverence.