Given ‘Minister’ status, 2 saints call off anti-govt drive

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Indore/Bhopal, Apr 4 – A day after getting the ‘Minister of State’ status, two religious leaders today cancelled their proposed stir against an alleged scam in the Narmada conservation programme, while a third one said he would not avail the benefits as MoS.

Seeking to downplay the controversy over grant of MoS status to five ‘saints,’ Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan today said his government wanted to rope in people from all walks of life for welfare and development.

Elsewhere, Bhayyu Maharaj, one of the five religious leaders accorded MoS status, said he would not avail of the benefits associated with the MoS status.

Ahead of the state assembly elections due later this year, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh had yesterday accorded the MoS status to five Hindu religious leaders — Narmadanand Maharaj, Hariharanand Maharaj, Computer Baba, Bhayyu Maharaj and Pandit Yogendra Mahant.

On March 31, the five were appointed to a committee set up for the Narmada river conservation.

As members of the committee, they were being given the MoS status, an official of the General Administration Department had said yesterday.

Spiritual leader Namdeo Das Tyagi, popularly known as Computer Baba with Madhya Pradesh CM, Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Computer Baba had earlier announced that he would take out ‘Narmada Ghotala Rath Yatra’, along with Yogendra Mahant, in every district of MP from April 1 to May 15, to expose an alleged scam in planting of saplings on the banks of the Narmada and to demand action against illegal sand mining.

The publicity material of the campaign was also circulated widely on social media.

Computer Baba today said they have cancelled the campaign, because the state government has fulfilled their demand to form a committee of saints and seers for protection of the Narmada river.

“Now why would we take out the yatra?” he said.

On accepting government facilities meant for an MoS despite being a saint, he said, “If we do not get the post and other government facilities, how can we work for the protection of the Narmada?

“As a member of the committee, we have to talk to the district collectors and look after other necessary arrangements for the river’s conservation. A government status is required for these works,” he said.

Yogendra Mahant

Yogendra Mahant, who was the convener of the proposed campaign, also said that they cancelled the ‘yatra’ as the state government fulfilled their demand to set up a panel for the river conservation.

On March 31, these five religious leaders were appointed members of the ‘Janjagrukta Abhiyan Samiti’ (Public Awareness Campaign Committee) set up for the conservation of the Narmada.

The opposition Congress yesterday dubbed the decision to appoint them as MoS as the BJP’s attempt to exploit the respect these religious leaders enjoy in the society.

The BJP hit back saying the opposition party disliked anything related to saints.

Asked by reporters as to why his government accorded the MoS status to religious leaders, Chief Minister Chouhan today said in Tikamgarh district, “We want to associate people from all walks of life in the work towards development and welfare of the people. So we have made efforts to bring together all sections of the society.”

Bhayyu Maharaj, one of the five `saints’ appointed to the committee, told PTI that he will shun the perks associated with the MoS status.

“I will try my level best to play my role as a member of the special committee constituted for conservation of the Narmada. However, I will not take any government benefits that come with the MoS status,” he said.

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