Abuse of Tamil Nadu temples' properties, HR & CE's sceptical roles - Many painful facts - 02

Abuse of temple assets. Times of India Blogs

In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, there are innumerable temples in small villages and towns. Many of them are  neither properly maintained nor in  good condition for reasons of lack of funds, negligence on the part of the Govt. machinery HR & CE.  These temples do have agricultural lands and the income from them will be good enough to maintain them individually.  The hitch  is these temple  do not have funds for annual maintenance because the lease holders of temple lands never pay the annual rent. Whatever money they get from the temple lands, it goes to them and part of it as commission to temple officials, that is what some knowledgeable local people  say.  The temple priests  and like-minded people seek funds from the public  to get the pujas, festivals going, etc., in these temples.  These temple do carry valuable iyempon (an alloy of 5 metals) idols of deities and sub-deities. Though they are under lock and key safely along with temple jewels, their safety in remote places is questionable.

Unlike Christian and Muslim places of worship and their vast properties that are being run by private trusts, the Hindu temples and their movable and immovable  properties are under the control of the state governments. In the case of Tamil Nadu, the HR & CE under the ministry are running the temple administration and their assets. In the case of heritage sites of immense value, they are managed by the ASI - Archaeological Society of India.

Since the DMK came to power for the first time in the mid 1960s, the scenario in the temple administration had changed drastically. As the DMK leadership then  professed rationalistic views and had utter disregard for Hindu religion, they failed to give serious attention to the temple administration and to the sentiments of majority Hindu population. But for a small fraction of the population, most of the Tamils are religious and god-fearing and are known to live as per the dictum of the great Tamil poetess Avaaiyar " Kovil ellatha uril kudi yerruka vendam" meaning " Don't live in a place where there is no temple to worship" This is the reason why you can see a small temple in the nook and corner of Tamil Desam.

Unfortunately some of the the officials of HR & CE in the higher echelon, over the last  couple of decades, have become corrupt and dishonest to the point of committing blasphemy by indirectly stealing temple money, by way of leasing out temple lands far below market value, replacing god's jewelry with the fake ones, leasing out temple mantaps at the entrance tower gate (example: Meenashshi temple, Madurai and Kumbeswarar temple, Kumbakonam) to build countless shops and most importantly colluding with smugglers in the case of idol thefts.
Abuse of Hindu temples' properties -under the HR & CE, a TN Govt. Organization:

01. When  Tamil Nadu was ruled by either DMK  or ADMK, both were busy  trading charges  at each other of corruption, mismanagement of funds, etc in all fields. Never had they dragged the temple Administration for pointing the accusing finger at each other.  The critics say both parties brazenly  collude with some when laying hands on the temple coffers and have  failed to take action when abuse of temple lands or misuse of temple money draws  their attention. The thieves go Scott-free without punishment and are ready for another loot. 

02. Srirangam temple Priests, etc: There are more than 30 priests working in the Srirangam Ranganathar temple without any monthly salary.  Instead, they have to share the daily puja collections in the aarti plate  plus  a part of sale of puja / Archana tickets  sold at the counters. 

03. Discrimination against temple priests: The Srirangam temple pays more than Rs. 18.56 crores yearly to meet the salary expenses, etc., of its employees.  The HR & CE  pays  a salary of Rs. 8000.00 to Rs. 20000.00 to employees like peons and vehicle drivers, but no salary is paid to the temple priests who take care of daily puja rituals, festivals, etc. Why this discrimination against the pundits? But, stoically, they do their duty to god without any reservation or qualms!  

This is also true of countless Hindu temples like Tiruchendur Murugan temple, at Tiruchendur. Shivacharyas do not receive any salary.  Priests and kovil Poojaries depend heavily on daily collections and in small temples it is meagre. Consequently, many temple priests in Tamil Nadu are living a hand to mouth life.

Satish Acharya

Madurai, Sri Meenakshi Temple, the largest Hindu temple Alamy

04. Temple repair and renovation: In the case of renovation and restoration of old temples, the prescribed norms are not followed; care is not taken to preserve fine sculptures and minute details of stone images, When sandblasting is used to clean the oiled images and sculptures by irresponsible contractors, in some places, they damage the inscriptions and ornate  stone carvings. Srivilliputhur Andal  temple is a case in point. In many places the HR & CE officials allow sand-blasting of age old temples  in violation of a State government directive against sandblasting for renovating temples. They also pull down huge mandapams of ancient temples without caring for their historical importance.

Sand blasting old temples causing damages.thehindu.com/t

 Above image: Effaced legacy: : (Clockwise from top left): The prakara wall of the Vyagrapurisvara temple at Tiruppulivanam sans its frescoes that were sandblasted recently; one of the Chola frescoes as it existed, in a file image provided by the Archaeological Survey of India; pillars with sculptures at the temple, also sandblasted and disfigured. A 16 pillared mantapam was damaged along with yet another structure- ancient kitchen - Madapalli,  dating back to Kulotunga Chola III (1215 A.D.) .   Photo Credit: PHOTOS: S. THANTHONI 

Temple cleaning: Sand-blasting and its impacts. SlideShare

Madurai temple, Shops in the Puthu mandap. Mapio.net

 Above  image:  Abuse of temple premises. A bazaar inside Madurai Meenatshi temple. Shops in the new mantapam. Loss of heritage

Shops in the ancient mantapam, Madurai temple. The Hindu

Above image
A blot on divinity. The Veera Vasantharayar Mandapam built in 1611 AD during the Nayak period. inside the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, which houses several shops selling a range of products from plastic toys to puja articles.  The mantapam had many intricately designed pillars and god's images.
Where is the sanctity / godliness of the temple?, the people question...............

05. Temple mantapams becoming bazaar: Devotees complain that the Kalyana Utchava mantapam of Andal temple  built by Sri Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagara has become a mini bazaar with countless shops inside the temple. A small space is left for devotees to witness Kalyana utchavam functions. Here lessees get a big income by way of subletting, but  temple gets just pittance. Subletting of building of public properties is against laws. Thanks to the selfish HR & CE officials. 

06. Until the fire accident taken place  in the first week of 2018  in the shop portion of the East Tower mantapam at Meenakshi temple, Madurai, converting the mantapam near the entrance tower of busy temples became a regular feature. Example Kumbaeswarar temple entrance on the Thanjavur  road. Here the shop-keepers are not direct tenants. Huge rent money gos to middlemen with political clout. Here, subletting rules the roost

07. Closure of shops inside temples: The Madurai High court, after the unfortunate fire mishap in Feb. 2018,  has ordered  all shops at Madurai temple to vacate the premises for good. Steps are being taken to vacate shops on temple premises in TN based on court orders.

08. Irregularities in leasing-out temple lands: Coming back to Sri Vatapatrasayee - Andal  temple its  4000 to 5000 acres of land  are leased to people with political connections at a rate far below the market value. Yet they never pay the rent and  the temple does not get adequate revenue to take care of temple needs; regular maintenance of the temple is affected.  This is the fate  of thousands of Tamil Nadu temples on account of lack of transparency and integrity on the part of HR & CE officials whose faith in Hinduism is questionable. 

09. Non-receipt of land rents:  As regards default of rent - both lands and buildings,  HR & CE has not taken any steps to regain control over these temple lands/ buildings or collect the yearly lease amounts as agreed upon by the occupants. The tenancy acts have many holes in favor of land tenants.

10. Mindless destruction of historical heritage  structures: Damages to our historical  temples go unabated. People are  appalled by the  irreparable damage being caused to ancient heritage temples in the state, in the name of renovation by the HR & CE department. They under take such repair and renovation works according to their whim. The contractors have a field day with nobody around to question them!!

11. According to eminent archaeologist Dr. Nagaswami, every inch of a temple is s symbol of divinity and care must be taken before such renovation. Responding to a  PIL,  over damaging heritage sites in the temples, the court  formed a panel, headed by senior advocate P S Raman to inspect the temples and file reports to court. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.comcity/chennai/madras-hc- threatens-to-scrap-tn-govt-dept-controlling-temples/articleshow/56106454.cm

12. Sub-standard contract work: When major repair  or construction works need to be taken up, it is widely believed, HR & CE people get a good chance to loot the public money.   Highly inflated project costs are another way to squander public money. The work done is of substandard quality and soon fall apart.

13. No accountability over misuse of temple funds: As there is no separate Accounts Committee to watch over the financial dealings or misappropriation of funds linked to temple administration, the officials have a free-for-all situation to manage vast FD funds deposited with public banks.

14. Misuse of temple properties: As for temple  buildings - 2.6 crore square feet of buildings and sites -  29 crore square feet of urban sites of temples., many in prime areas  were donated by the public (rich people and philanthropists) to the temple for the benefit of common man. But, they are being misused by selfish and greedy officials and the very purpose of donation  for charity is defeated here.

15. Source of illegal money: 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 black money.

16. Temple incurring loss of income: For example, temple properties - buildings and sites  across Tamil Nadu alone  can yield income more than several  thousand crores of rupees. But the government  collects far less in rent -less than 100 crores. You can imagine how much money is realized under the table. No accountability problem will arise. If  it were a  corporate company,  officers would have been penalized or fired instantly. .http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/freeing-temples-from-state-control/article5594132.ece

17. Grand loss of regular temple income: With the regular income from the temples,when managed well, if it were private trusts, they could run several high schools, a few fine high-tech  hospitals affordable by the poor, a couple of dental and regular medical schools annually. Besides, they can divert funds  to old temples to repair them, run Agama schools, offer innumerable scholarships to poor students for all castes with good score for higher education. Unfortunately temple funds are stuck with wrong people in their family coffers.

18. Misuse of donations to temples: As for public donations to the temples, money does not go to temples' regular maintenance, instead, it goes to non-religious purposes. Free weddings, etc. Many people complain that those weddings are fake - officials choose already married couples with whom they make a deal.  Temple don't publicly display Hundial collections on regular basis.

19. Free wedding using temple funds: At some temples where the government conducts free weddings using  temple funds, they do not take funds from other revenue deptts. This will result in temples becoming bankrupt.

20. Non-Hindu recipients: Certain Hindu organizations complain that these temple properties are leased out to non-Hindus especially Christian missionaries and charities which carry on  their anti-Hindu activities from these places.

21. No solution in sight: The government has a vise-like grip on the Hindu temples and properties and as they they are golden-egg laying hens, a rich source  of ill-gotten money. People say the government won't loosen their grip on temples, as they are money spinners. Certain Hindu organizations are working hard to get the temples freed from the greedy and grasping Govt. department.