London: The Hindu group in a multi-faith service initiative launched by the David Cameron government as part of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebrations has pulled out due to "concerns over financial governance" of the project.
The initiative, called A Year Of Service (AYOS), is sponsored by the Department of Communities and Local Government, and includes organisations from different religions, including Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism.
Participating organisations were told that the government could not provide funds for the individual projects, but conflict within the project's committee arose when it was revealed that Mitzvah Day – the Jewish organisation administering the project – was given grants totalling 65,000 pounds for its work on the scheme.
Ashok Ganguly, chairman of Sewa Day, the Hindu organisation participating in the project, said that "due to concerns that we have regarding the financial governance of AYOS, we have decided to step away from our involvement in this project".
The project is intended to "highlight the voluntary service that people of faith carry out in their local communities, forging links between volunteers".
Twelve days throughout 2012 have been scheduled as Days of Volunteering, each coinciding with a religious festival or existing volunteering day, and each focusing on a particular social action theme.
Ganguly said in a statement: "Sewa Day recently discovered (inadvertently I might add) that the Government has awarded the lead member of the AYOS committee (Mitzvah Day) a sum of 65,000 pounds".
He added: "Repeated requests by Sewa Day for clarity on the application of these funds have met nothing but a stone wall. Given our own commitment to transparency, we find this unacceptable."
Alleging that the Department of Local Communities & Government and the organisers of AYOS (Mitzvah Day) "don't share our ethics in this regard," Ganguly said his organisation had no choice but to pull out of the initiative.
Ganguly added: "The current climate of economic austerity adds another level of discomfort. In an environment within which every penny of taxpayer money and its use is being scrutinised by the public and the media, 65,000 pounds is a lot of money".
Regretting Sewa Day's decision to withdraw, AYOS hoped that the large Hindu community in the UK "will continue to embrace in a variety of ways the unique opportunity that A Year of Service offers for interfaith social action during this Jubilee year."
The first event under the initiative was held in March, led by the Bahai Faith, where representatives of the nine faith communities joined young people to wrap donated gifts for a London homeless shelter.


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