Hyderabad: It has been a double whammy for imams and muezzin across Telangana given the COVID – 19 pandemic. First, the lockdown has ensured that there are no taraweeh congregations, meaning no income for imams. The second, to add insult to injury, the honorarium which the Telangana government had promised, did not reach all beneficiaries even in the last 10 days of Ramzan.
The honorarium for imams and muezzins is a scheme devised by the Government of Telangana. It seeks to route Rs. 5,000 per month per imam or muezzin across the state and funds are deposited directly into beneficiary accounts. The beneficiaries of this scheme, combined, are 10,000 imams and muezzins. Funds of Rs. 5 crore per month are earmarked for this purpose.The funds are routed through the accounts of the Telangana State Waqf Board (TSWB), which is headed by former Member of Legislative Council Mohammed Saleem.
“Though we have made payments till January this year, we could not make the payment for the months of November and December 2019. This was due to an issue with the funds being transferred via the Personal Deposit Account. Also, the honorariums for the months of February, March and April 2020 are pending as we were waiting for funds from the government,” said a source from the TSWB. The payments over the past year have remained erratic, the source said.
Interestingly, before Ramzan, the TSWB members met at Razzack Manzil and decided to release honorariums to beneficiaries so that they do not face financial troubles in the holy month. However, this did not happen.
“Non-payment of the honorarium has hit imams and muezzins hard. This is because of the fact that imams who are hafiz used to lead the taraweeh prayers in different masjids and used to get paid good sums of money. This would relieve them of the financial burden. Expenses for two to four months would be taken care of. Now, because of the lockdown, there are no taraweeh prayers. With no taraweeh congregation and no honorarium, it is difficult for them to make ends meet,” the TSWB official said.
However, later on Friday night, TSWB officials clarified that funds were received were transferred into a section of beneficiary accounts. However, as on May 15, a large number of imams and muezzins were yet to receive funds.
“We have begun to deposit the honorarium. The next tranche of funds will be released in a day or two. Similarly, a third installment will be released,” a source said.