Abuse of Tamil Nadu temples' properties HR & CE's skeptical role - Many painful facts - 01

     Arunachaleswarar temple,Thiruvanamalai,Tamil Nadu.snapthepix.com

Among the Indian states, Tamil Nadu is one of the few ones that have the largest number of temples and many of them are steeped in history and have immense heritage values.  The Hindu temples, their properties, etc are being managed by  the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) and it is functioning under  a separate ministry. The offbeat policy of the  secular Government  to control the temples and their properties applies only to Hindu Religious institutions, not other religions.

1000 plus year old Brihadeeswarar Temple of Tanjore thenextdestination.in

The paradox is the  secular  character of the government takes a beating as the HR & CE is not running the administration effectively in accordance with temple norms or Agama Sastras. It neither gives serious consideration to  the sentiments of millions of Hindus living in this state nor functions free from  political powers.  The British Government's dictum "the church and the state are different religious matter" does not work here and it takes the backseat. Is  secularism only for Hindus and not for minorities. The HR and CE Act is is degenerating the religiosity of Hindu temples and their ethos. People say the Hindu temple  should be taken off the HR & CE yoke as the institution itself is a cesspool of corruption, nepotism and an embodiment of everything against the tenets of Hinduism.

Govt. justification to control Hindu temples!!SlideShare

Abuse of Hindu temples' properties - Many  facts about the HR & CE, a TN Govt. Organization:

01. The Tamil Nadu (Madras) Government created a department called the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE) in 1951 out of the Hindu Religious Endowments Board which was functioning from 1927. During the colonial period and after independence till 1960s, the govt. ran the temple administration without any complaint from the public, did not interfere in temple affairs and tried to maintain the sanctity of the temple reasonably well.

02.  That why should a secular government seriously poke their nose and control  religious institutions of only Hindus, is a  moot question  that needs to be repeatedly put forward by  Hindus to  the Government and the Courts. For decades, the Hindu communities ridden with  caste distinctions have remained mute and yet to get reasonable answer!! 

03. HR & CE of  Tamil Nadu Government  administers as many as 36,425 temples, 56 Mutts, 47 temples belonging to Mutts 1721 specific endowments and 189 Trusts.  They also manage  4,78,545 acres of agricultural land, 22,599 buildings, and 33,627 vacant sites. Conservative value of the above runs into  billions of dollars.

04. Mutts in Tamil Nadu own  lots of agricultural lands, buildings, etc. Dharmapuram and Thruvadudurai Adheenams own more than 45,000 acres of agricultural land each, besides Kasi Tirupanandal Mutt with more than 15000 acres of land. Along with them,  Kanchi Kamakodi, Madurai Adeenam Mutt and others have difficulty in collecting rent from the tillers.  The tenancy laws in Tamil Nadu and the non-functioning Revenue Courts  stand in between landowners and tenants and consequently just like temples, mutts  lose heavy annual income. 

05. As for movable an immovable temple  assets, many are believed to have been  looted; many sold at throwaway prices; No maintenance of proper records of collection of rents from the tenants using lands and buildings owned by the temples.

06. With reference to the Tamilnadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959 (Tamil Nadu Act 22 of 1959), between 1950 and 1959 the Madras High Court and Supreme Court heard different cases against HR & CE concerning Chidambaram Temple, Mulkipetta Venkataramana Temple and Shirur Mutt. After hearing arguments in all cases, the learned courts   ruled  in explicit and direct terms that the HR and CE Act 1951 was ultra vires of the Constitution and struck down the sections of the Act, which sought to appoint executive officers to religious institutions, as arbitrary and unconstitutional. According to T. R. Ramesh, an expert in TN temple affairs and functioning of HR & CE's  overt and covert operations.  The Government of Madras introduced a new section [section 45] in the 1959 Act which was even more arbitrary and draconian than Sec. 56 of the 1951 Act. It also retained the Sections 63-68 in the new Act which now carried the numbers 71-76. The only section relating to appointment of Executive Officer that was upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court was not carried in the new Act. It meant the Department’s illegal and arbitrary orders can be safeguarded against appeal by the trustees of religious institutions.  

07. Temple properties under the Govt. management provides ample scope for nepotism and corruption because  they are leased out at values far lower than the market value. Consequently the temples lose solid income on account of this malpractice.

08.  Mutts have to pay 12% revenue tax plus 4%  audit tax annually from lands and properties enjoyed by the tenants who purposely fail to pay the annual rent. Holes in the tenancy acts are so many, it is tough to realize income. Because of biased stance of HR & HE, mutts incur loss. They strive hard to keep their heads above the waters.

09. The HR & CE Dept., is least interested in taking suitable legal action  to recover these rents or arrears of rents. In some cases arrears of rent may run into a few years. The result is temples are the losers and their annual maintenance becomes difficult. 

10. When the temple lands and properties are leased out, higher ups in the ministry and the dishonest HR & CE officials  take a huge cut as commission, not withstanding the fact they are using temple properties as an illegal source to make money under the table.

11. Yet another incorrigible fact in the case of temple properties  the beneficiaries are relatives / friends of HR & CE officials or people  close to the ruling party. 

12. Since the the temple management fell into the hands of the  corrupt govt. officials and politicians, with systematic pre-planning they have been looting  the temple’s wealth and land.