n India, there are thousands of religious places and some of them are the richest by all means. There was always an approach that rich temples of India should be taken over by the state governments and utilise the accumulated fund for the nation building by doing developmental work. Well, the religious institutions are not only restricted to the temples, but there are also many mosques and churches in India that are hugely funded by different countries for the betterment of their own communities. If all these religious places come together and think of helping the state governments, the nation would not be needing loans from the World Bank.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government has borrowed Rs 500 crore from Shirdi Saibaba Temple Trust to complete Nilwande irrigation project. The interest-free loan has been secured to complete the pending works in the irrigation project, which will provide drinking water for Ahmednagar district. The trust’s chairperson Dr. Suresh Kashinath Haware, who is a BJP member, gave the nod to the request made by the BJP-led government in the state. The repayment schedule hasn’t been fixed as of now.
The move is extraordinary, as no state corporation has been granted an interest-free loan before. The proposal was cleared in a meeting chaired by Fadnavis on February 1 and the order to release the funds in two tranches was given last week. Saibaba Temple Trust and Godawari-Marathwada Irrigation Development have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the same. The trust will release Rs 500 crore for the irrigation project worth Rs 1,200 crore. The work has been long pending on the project. As per reports, more than 70,000 devotees visit the Shirdi temple every day and during the festival season, the number balloons to 3.5 lakh. Some regions in the Ahmednagar district face acute shortage of water and the project will benefit all tehsils in the district. Akole, Sangamner, Rahuri, Kopargain, and Shirdi and other villages will benefit once the projected is completed. As a devotee and as a citizen, I personally felt good about the entire episode. This is what is expected for the other temples too.
In India, there are two main types of temples. The Small and Medium Temples are maintained by the people of the village or by Private management trust and the Large Temples are maintained by the HR and CE department. The money that you put in Hundi, goes for God’s purpose. The trust maintains the whole temple in this Hundi money. Maintaining a temple is not an easy task. Everyday flowers, prasadam, ritual items, clothes for God have to be purchased. Every fortnight at least one or two festivals come and they have to distribute the money for it. Many offer huge donations and gold that is the surplus amount and that amount piles up and becomes permeate asset value of the Temple trust.
For famous temples, normally money, gold, and maintenance are not at all problems (Like Tirupati). Our ancient Kings and Jamindars have granted lands for the maintenance. So, the money also comes from these sources. Temple inscriptions have this evidence. Most of the large temples are maintained by the bigger trusts and HR department. But they don’t carry out all the rituals and only important ones are carried out. Again, they can distribute the money easily as they are maintaining many temples and they can direct the money from one famous temple to a simpler one. What happens to the huge donations received by any NGO from charitable and gullible foreigners, same fate can be attributed to all the temples that get unaccountable and non-taxable uncountable money in terms of cash and in kind like gold, diamond, and other ornaments, which the devotees pour on their God as a reciprocity and reverence!
If you take some of the richest temples, their annual income might be a staggering amount that could be understood only in terms of billions of dollars or pounds. The Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple is probably the richest in the whole world which takes the credit of having crossed nearly Rs 20 billion worth of assets found in one out of four treasures followed by Tirupati Venkatachalapathi earning Rs 2 crore per day and the annual income crossing around Rs 700 crores. Vaishno Devi also crosses around Rs 600 crores whereas the much talked Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Temple trailing behind to Rs 60-70 crores per year. Shirdi Baba, who was not given proper clothes and roti and buttermilk while alive, is getting around Rs 400 crores per year revealing the bitter truth how a phantom of a man is more powerful than the actual man in blood and flesh.
Though each temple has its own auditing system, there is no accountability for them either to any external agency or government. Probably, God thinks the money that is being swindled in His name is nothing compared to the money that is laundered and manoeuvred by selfish and dishonest politicians in exploiting the BPL Indians. The beauty is to be registered into your brain here is that the devotee, who donates to his beloved God, does not care about the fate of his money that he put in Hundi.
In fact, it is interesting to hear from some great brains of India if such huge dead wealth is deposited in RBI, the Indian Rs 1 would demand $100 just reversing the current trend. Since they are good and genuine people, they want to utilise the holy money but not to unearth black money hidden with bad people.
The recent move of depositing the excess gold/cash with the RBI for which interest can be gained and gold can also be taken back after some lock-in time is to be utilised by the concerned temples, especially those which do not know what to do with such huge quantum of Gold. In such a situation, the temples can loan that amount to respective governments and help towards same humankind who are the donors and devotees of the temple.