Amdavadis place more faith in gods than education

Compared to 19,787 religious places in the city, Ahmedabad has only 6,596 educational institutes and 8,794 hospitals, reveals census figures

Amdavadis place more faith in gods than education, if we go by the latest census report. According to figures in the report on the use of buildings or houses, the city has more places of worship than places of education. For every school/college in the city, there are three places of worship, big and small.
One pc (33.08 lakh) of all surveyed buildings in the country is a place of worship while in Gujarat it is 1.2 pc (2.1 lakh)
The report reveals that Gujarat has built more places of worship in the last decade than in the ’90s. The state surpasses the national average in establishing places of worship. One per cent (33.08 lakh) of all surveyed buildings in the country is a place of worship while in Gujarat it is 1.2 per cent (2.1 lakh).  

As per census report, Kutch stands first with 20,699 places of worship, closely followed by Ahmedabad (19,787), then Rajkot (15,353). Compared to this, 

Ahmedabad has only 6,596 schools/colleges. Even the number of hospitals in the city is less (8,794) compared to religious places.

The report does not give a break-up of the places as per individual religion. 

While some believe this is proof that to build and run religious places has of late become a lucrative business, others say it is a reflection of today’s unstable times.

Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest and human rights activist, said, “The rise in religious places can be attributed to politics and economy. Politicians want a hold over religious places so that they can benefit in votes. Religion has become commercialised. It is not a matter of faith any more. There are about 20 religious places dotting Drive-In Road alone. At most places, trustees seek money. Devotees, too, are ready to donate.”

He added, “The trend to build places of worship on the roads or outside housing societies has risen. Nobody wants to become a good Hindu, Muslim or Christian any more. People need to learn how to behave like human beings first.”

VHP International General Secretary Pravin Togadia said, “The increase in temples point to the insecurity that people face. The insecurity comes in two forms: Anti-social and modern life. Increasing crime falls in the first category. In the second category, people see relief from the fast-paced, competitive life. They seek mental peace.”

Echoing similar sentiments, VHP Gujarat General Secretary Kaushik Mehta said, “People here have become very prosperous. They pray to god to ensure they continue to have a good life. They feel insecure about losing it. Till 10 years ago, Ambaji saw not more than 2 lakh footfalls. Last Navratri, 22 lakh devotees visited the temple. More and more devotees walk to Dakor, Junagadh Parikrama or Chotila. This points to a rise in devotees. It is natural, then, that there would be a rise in temples, too.”

He added, “Religious commitments have also overshadowed social relations. As people increasingly stay away from friends and relatives, they visit temples. Many go their with their immediate families and even have food. Due to this, many temples now have their own canteens to cater to the devotees who usually flock there on weekends.”

PRO Kanu Bhagat of Swaminarayan Gurukul Chharodi said, “When it comes to Hindu religion, people focus a lot on festivals. We have also seen an increase in devotees visiting Swaminarayan temples. People easily tire of today’s stressful life. They face myriad problems. This drives them to seek peace in religion.”

Jama Masjid Imam Mufti Shabbir Alam admitted that the number of devotees offering namaaz has increase. “I will not comment any further till I have seen the data,” he said. 

While number of religious places has risen from 13,768 in 2001 to 19,787 in 2011, a similar trend is also reflected in Gandhinagar figures. From 3,565 places of worship in 2001, number has risen to 5,632 in 2011. This, despite the fact that the government had razed over 320-odd religious encroachments in Gandhinagar over last two years. Interestingly, of the total number of buildings (4,33,258) in the capital, only 2,600 house schools/colleges. This is just 0.6 per cent of the total compared to religious places which is 1.3 per cent. Hospitals account for just 0.3 per cent of total buildings in Gandhinagar.