The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam has taken the controversial decision of diverting the temple’s funds.

 

Hyderabad: Is the cash-strapped Andhra government trying to dip into the funds of the world’s richest Hindu temple? Is it eyeing Tirumala Lord Venkateswara’s wealth? If one goes by certain developments, the answer seems to be in the affirmative. Of course, the state government denies this.

The Andhra government led by Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy wants to use Lord Balaji’s wealth to fulfil the promises that it made to the people of the state. What led to the controversy is the decision by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) of putting the temple funds into the Andhra government’s securities. Till now, the temple funds were deposited only in scheduled nationalised banks for security reasons despite the low interest rate.

Recently, the TTD’s finance wing came up with a proposal for keeping the TTD’s funds in Central government securities as that would fetch nearly 7% interest as against 5.5% interest in the nationalised banks.

But the TTD Board has included the clause to allow the deposit of these funds in Central and State government securities. It is alleged that this is part of a calculated move to allow the Jagan Mohan Reddy regime to use the funds of Lord Balaji.

If the Andhra government does not pay the interest and also refuses to return the deposits, the TTD cannot do anything in future since the TTD is under the control of the Andhra government itself.

In fact, the TTD Chairman is at the mercy of the state government. The TTD Board passed a resolution on 28 August to allow its funds to flow into the hands of the AP government. It was, however, kept as a secret.

It is alleged that TTD Chairman, Y.V. Subba Reddy, who is uncle to CM Jagan Mohan Reddy, is working in favour of the state government. In December, several TTD deposits would mature in different banks. With this in view, the stage is being set to transfer all these funds into Andhra government securities.

BJP leader Lanka Dinakar told The Sunday Guardian, “The funds are generally deposited in the scheduled banks. The state government cannot have access to the funds of Lord Venkateswara Swamy. The TTD provided the facility to the state government as the latter is cash-strapped. Now the government has crossed all borrowing limits, so the loans are not available for it. Now it wants to take the funds from TTD.”

He alleged: “The CM influenced the TTD Chairman, Y.V. Subba Reddy, who is his close relative, and members as well. The banks give interests on the fixed deposits monthly and quarterly so that the interests can be used for temple services, but the securities with the government cannot yield such interests. After a minimum of five years, the securities will mature. How would the TTD maintain temple services?”

The BJP leader further said, “It is unfortunate that the state government is eyeing the funds and hurting the sentiments of the people. We strongly condemn this kind of approach. The government considers the TTD as a revenue generating organisation rather than a spiritual centre for crores of Hindus across the globe.”

According to political analyst Professor G.V.R. Sasthri, “The governments have no right over temples. The TTD Board should see how safe the money of the temple is rather than the interest to be obtained. It is not a profit-making institution. The money should be deposited in the State Bank of India. Who is asking for interests? Did God ask for it? The money should be spent for Lord Venkateswara Swamy and its related activities only. Is it a private limited company to go for interests? We Hindus don’t accept this decision. Have you got the guts to go against the sentiments of Hindus?”

TTD ex-member Bhanu Prakash Reddy said, “Lord Balaji has about Rs 12 thousand crore deposited in various nationalised banks. By this December, about Rs 5,000 crore will accrue to it as interest. Again, this amount should be deposited in nationalised banks only. TTD is a Dharmik organisation, not a private company. Interest is not the matter here.”

Later, TTD Chairman, Y.V. Subba Reddy’s office issued the following clarification: “The Trust Board has explored various options of investment, in the backdrop of the falling interest rate scenario in the wake of the Covid pandemic and considered investments in Central government or in different state government securities as one of the options to be considered. There is no ‘hidden agenda’ in this as the Trust Board has transparently made the decision in the Trust Board meetings telecast ‘live’ and further this agenda with a Board resolution was also uploaded on TTD website. The investments in Central government or state government securities are not newly brought out by the Board but such a provision already exists in Sec 111(3) of Endowments Act 30 of 1987 and in Rule 80 of the TTD Rules issued in G.O.311, dt.09.04.1990 and such investments in securities can be made only after the guidelines are approved by the government. No investment was made till now either in the Central government or in different state government securities. Board wanted to examine the investment option in securities in the wake of falling interest rates. Now, this option may not be required to be acted upon, as the interest rates are going up, in the light of buoyance in the economy in the wake of unlock guidelines 5.0 and the TTD may continue to invest in the fixed deposits in banks.”

HOW THE TTD WORKS

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam board is a body established in 1932 to maintain the temple of Lord Balaji of Tirumala and its related temples. It works under the Government of Andhra Pradesh. TTD provides various services for pilgrims to Tirumala and Tirupati, including bus services, food and accommodation. It maintains the queue management system, facilitates head tonsure and distribution of laddus. The Chairman of TTD and members are appointed by the state government. It abides by whatever the government orders. The question is if TTD can ask its money back if it is taken by the government.

However, the TTD does not depend on interests to run its services. There is no cash problem in the TTD. It is said that the board runs the Nitya Annadanam (food to devotees), and interests are required for that. But this is a completely false argument since the Nitya Annadanam trust has Rs 1,150 crore of deposits and gets an annual interest of Rs 80 crore on that. Moreover, the trust gets Rs 100 crore of donations from the devotees, and the expenditure is only Rs 90 crore for this service.