The Uttar Pradesh government’s Public Works Department has opened a bank account to deposit proceeds from its employees, who have been asked to voluntarily contribute funds worth one day of their salaries for construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, The Wire reported on Thursday.

On January 19, the department’s Engineer-in-Chief Rajpal Singh wrote to the MG Road branch in Lucknow of private lender HDFC Bank, asking to open an account by the name “PWD Ram Mandir Welfare”, the letter accessed by The Wire showed. The letter mentioned that the contribution from the employees will be voluntary in nature and that the account will be managed by the department’s Executive Engineer Munish Kumar and Chief Assistant Birendra Kumar. The letter bore an official letterhead of the Public Works Department.

Following Singh’s letter, a bank account, with the account number 50100365009830 was opened in the branch, according to The Wire.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya on Thursday said that employees of the department wanted to contribute after coming to know that he had donated funds worth a year of his salary towards building of the temple, News18 reported. Maurya also handles the public works department ministry in the state Cabinet.

“When they [employees] learnt that I had donated my one year’s salary, they too wanted to contribute,” Maurya said. “I told them that it should not be forced upon anyone but whoever is willing to donate should do so with a sense of pride and joy.” He also pointed out that President Ram Nath Kovind, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel and Chief Minister Adityanath have also donated funds for the temple.

Maurya, however, did not mention who took the call on the amount of donation being a day’s salary or other modalities related to the decision. Meanwhile, an employee of the department, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Telegraph that the decision was taken by Singh himself.

“As far as I know, nobody in the government asked Singh to do this,” the employee said. “He himself discussed it with some of his colleagues a few days ago and then informed some of the employees about the drive. The majority of the employees came to know about the decision on Wednesday when Singh’s letter was circulated on social media.”

The employee also pointed out that the contribution could be in contravention to Rule 10 of the Uttar Pradesh Government Servants’ Conduct Rules, 1956. The rule under the head “Subscriptions” states: “No government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the government ask for or accept contributions to or otherwise associate himself with the raising of any funds or other collections in cash or in kind in pursuance of any object whatsoever.”

On January 15, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, the body set up to oversee the biilding of the temple, launched a countrywide contribution drive for the construction. The campaign to collect funds will be carried out across 5,25,000 villages. The sum collected will have to be deposited within 48 hours in banks. The drive will end on February 27.

The Ram temple’s construction began in August, over two weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid its foundation stone at an elaborate ceremony in Ayodhya on August 5. Modi had laid a symbolic 40-kg silver brick in the sanctum sanctorum, or innermost sanctuary, to mark the start of the temple construction in Ayodhya. The celebrations were, however, toned down because of the coronavirus crisis.

A landmark Supreme Court verdict in November 2019 had paved the way for the construction of the Ram temple. The court had ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya would be handed over to a government-run trust for the construction of a Ram temple. The court had also said that the demolition of Babri Masjid was illegal and directed the government to acquire an alternative plot of land to build a mosque.

The mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992 by “kar sevaks” who claimed that an ancient Ram temple stood at the same site.