Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government has hiked the monthly salaries of Ram Lalla, the temple head priest and eight other members of the staff of the makeshift temple at the Ram Janmbhoomi site in Ayodhya.

The move comes amid day-to-hearings in the Supreme Court after a mediation panel set up by it failed to resolve the decades-long issue.

According to Ayodhya divisional commissioner Manoj Misra, who is also the caretaker of the makeshift temple, the ‘salary’ of Ram Lalla, the infant avatar of Lord Ram, has been hiked from Rs 26, 200 to Rs 30,000. This ‘salary is spent for expenditure on outfits, bathing and prasad, and electricity and water supply to the temple.

The monthly salary of the caretaker priest Satyendra Das has been hiked from Rs 8,480 to Rs 13,000 while the other eight members of the temple staff will each get a hike of Rs 500 in their monthly salaries, which range between Rs 7,500 and Rs 10,000.

Das, the caretaker priest, expressed happiness with the government’s decision saying that even a small hike will benefit them as they spend on puja items, as a result of which they incur daily expenditure. He further said that the staff had requested the government for a hike in July and added that this was the biggest hike since 1992.

Divisional commissioner Misra, meanwhile, said that this should not be seen as an attempt to influence the ongoing hearings in the apex court.

The decades-long Ayodhya land dispute took a particularly violent turn in the 1990s. In September 1990, the-then BJP president LK Advani started a ‘rath yatra’ to generate support for the Ram Janmbhoomi movement; during this, several ‘kar-sevaks’ lost their lives when they were fired upon by the police and the paramilitary forces as they tried to raze the Babri mosque.

The mosque, meanwhile, was demolished on December 6, 1992, by a mob of Hindu activists. The demolition triggered communal riots across the country.