Sunday, October 01, 2006

Govt not doing enough for Kumaris' upkeep?

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, September 30 [2006]:

The Living Goddess Kumari, who is adorned by the head of the state himself and poses as an attraction for millions of people, tourists and media gets hardly more than an office boy's salary in the government's pay scale, for sacrificing her juvenile years, and for her "divine powers".
"The Kathmandu Kumari is given Rs 6,000 per month as livelihood allowance and Rs 1,000 per month as scholarship," states a report of Kaushi Toshkhana Office, an outlet of Ministry of Finance for Cultural Expenditures, sent to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation recently. She started getting scholarship only last year.
The government had to disclose the details of the Living Goddess's entitlement only after it became a legal issue, when an advocate, Pundevi Maharjan Sujana, filed a case against the government, seeking rights and facilities to the girl child last year. The government had to produce a report of what Kumari has been getting, as per the order of the Supreme Court.
According to the report, the Kumari is also given a pension of Rs 3,000 per month after she ceases to be Kumari. Apart from the cash, every month the office also sends two kilos of rice, two kilos of beaten rice, 1.7 litres of oil, 100 grams of red vermilion, 75 grams of barley, and certain other commodities for carrying out rituals to the caretaker of the Living Goddess, who lives in the Kumari House at Basantapur.
The report adds that the Kumari of Kathmandu also receives Sripad allowance, allowance from the Royal Palace and expenses for marriage. The report is mum on the details of such allowances and says nothing on when she is provided with the same.
Cultural expert Kashi Nath Tamoth said the government's financial support is far from sufficient when compared to what the state seeks from the girl as the source of divine feminine power.
He believes if the government plays fair, she won't need even a penny from others. "The Kumari used to own hundreds of ropanis of land. The income from that land would have been more than enough to support her. But Singha Durbar and Putali Sadak Road have come up on part of that property, while the rest has been taken over by the government," he said. However, another cultural expert, Satya Mohan Joshi, begs to differ. He says the contribution of the Living Goddess and the honour she earns from the public and the state should not be weighed in rupees.
According to the report, the Kumaris of Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Nuwakot also get nominal monthly allowance of Rs 1,500 each from the government. The ex-Kumaris of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur get a monthly pension of Rs 1,000 while there is no provision of pension
for ex-Kumaris of Nuwakot. In addition, all of them receive monthly allowance of Rs 200 each for schooling.
[September 31,2006, Kathmandu]