There is no dearth of politicians and thinkers who advise people ‘not to mix politics and religion’. However, the best example of what the unholy nexus of rulers, politicians and bureaucrats can do in causing harm to Dharma, is observed in case of Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti and its mega scam running into Thousands of Crores of Rupees. This unholy trio failed to carry out duties expected out of them, causing irreparable spiritual loss to Hindu Dharma and to Hindus. The resulting obstacles in propagation of Hindu Dharma are so vast that it would be difficult to even quantify the loss.
On one hand, madarasas are being granted increased ‘floor space index (FSI)’; they are given financial aid. Even organizations promoted by churches are getting financial aid; but 3067 ancient and revered temples in Paschim Maharashtra are on the verge of destruction and but have failed to create awareness amongst Hindus. The only reason is the pillage of the Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti by the Congress and corrupt bureaucrats who ruled over the state.
On 14th May 1969, the then State Government issued an order in its gazette, under which management of 3067 ancient temples was handed over to the newly constituted ‘Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti’, set up under the State’s Law and Justice Department. The State Government claimed that the purpose behind forming this committee was ‘protection of property and revenue generated by these temples’. However, in the 45 years that followed, the vultures in the guise of politicians and bureaucrats have slowly and steadily stripped the wealth of these temples.
What do the Hindus expect from the Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti ?
1.These 3067 temples used to own over 25,000 acres of land. These lands should be managed by the Devasthan Samiti for generating income that should be utilized for Dharma-karya.
2.Responsible accounting of the income generated from the temples.
3.Only good and qualified people should be hired to work in these temples
4.The funds and income generated should be utilized for Dharma-karya.
5.The Budget and annual accounts should be regularly submitted to the Charity Commissioner for transparent and responsible dealings.
6.The Government and Charity Commissioner should minutely verify that all the above requirements are properly complied with.
It is unfortunate that NONE of the above expectations have been met.
1. Temples taken over by the Congress
Now, the Samiti had over 25000 acres of land owned by temples in its custody. So it would have been a surprise if the politicians did not try to usurp this land ! An officer named Shri. Vijay Achalia has referred to these lands in his notes (a copy of which is enclosed as Annexure 1). This officer was later appointed as a Judge of the Mumbai High Court; therefore, credibility of his observations are unquestionable. (Proof of the organized way in which land grabbing took place is provided in the following paragraphs). For more than a Decade, the post of the Devasthan Samiti President was occupied by one Gulabrao Ghorpade (a Congress party member). So much so that there was internal strife in the Congress party to oust him; but neither the media nor politicians from other parties took note. Many MPs, MLAs, ministers tried very hard to get a place on this Samiti. Their recommendation letters only highlight how loyal the person is to the Congress party. Devotion or prior experience with Dharma karya have no place in these letters! There is also a detailed report of how the Congress had taken over the Devasthan Samiti and how they shared power with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). (Letters requesting appointment and recommendation letters from Congress party workers, office bearers, leaders, MLAs and MPs are attached. A letter dated 25.4.11 from Balasaheb Khot, Congress party worker; letter dated 13.9.2011 by P. N. Patil, President of the ‘Kolhapur District Congress Committee’ and similar letters – Annexure 2). It was later proved that this was not done with a hunger for power, but greed to usurp land.
2. Mining on lands belonging to Devasthan Samiti and embezzlement of thousands of Crores
Few mining companies were granted permission to carry out mining on lands belonging to the Devasthan Samiti. The District Collector was responsible for issuing these mining permits. The mining contractors ravaged the temple lands; stripped minerals worth thousands of Crores, but did not give a single Rupee to the temples. The District Collector also never felt the need for asking permission of the Devasthan Samiti in the matter. The District Collector is a Government officer, while the committee was also Government appointed. So, it was a ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ policy. Names of Padmavati Mining Company, Mumbai; Swati Minerals, Kolhapur; Universal Mining Company, Ichalkaranji have been mentioned in the audit reports of Shri. B. N. Shevale (Auditor) for the years 2004-05 and 2006-07; who estimated that the annual royalty should amount to approximately Rs. 2-3 crores. Over the course of the last 45 years, this amount could easily surpass a few thousand crores. The auditor has raised doubts in his report while also pulling up the committee for its lapses, but no heed was paid.
3. No land records, rampant encroachments and low revenue generation
The Devasthan Samiti has lands spread over several districts; however, no records have been maintained. They are unaware of the encroachments, the encroachments have not been cleared and there are complaints of lack of sufficient income being generated from these lands. (Annexure 4). No one has taken the trouble of unearthing the missing land. After we (Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad) filed a petition in the Maharashtra High Court, 300 acres belonging to the Pandharpur temple were recovered. Hooligans and antisocial organizations rule the roost in Kolhapur, so it is quite natural that the people grabbing temple land are also from among these anti social elements. Therefore it has become very difficult to find such temple land and take possession.
4. Malpractices while leasing land and renting temple property
If any property is to be let out for a period of more than 3 years, the permission of the Charity Commisioner is required. The Devasthan Samiti has avoided this by renting the property for 2 years and 11 months at a time. Not content with this much rule flouting, the Devasthan Samiti then completely ignores that property, because for all practical purposes it has been donated by them ! It is obvious that such massive misappropriation has occurred, due to the scale on which the Devasthan Samiti has ignored these deals.
When one considers the misappropriation of thousands of crores in mining royalty and malpractices in renting properties and rent receipts (which also run into hundreds of crores); these instances of poorly maintained (and missing) land records which have not been updated in over 45 years, is no small matter. Even when there were efforts to update the land records and irregularities were observed, such cases were suppressed with bribes worth crores that changed hands. So the reason why these records are not updated is clear from this.
5. Embezzlement in temple ornaments
Devotees donate Gold and Silver ornaments on a large scale to these temples, however, records of these donations have been shabbily maintained. For example, records showed a temple having a silver Horse. When auditor Shevale was checking the assets, he did not find the horse, instead he found a gold chain. Besides, no records pertaining to ornaments belonging to 3067 temples or who was currently in possession of such ornaments have been maintained. The auditor has commented on the shabby way in which the records have been maintained. The description of the ornaments on receipts issued to the devotee differ from the records in the temple. The same note has been attached by District Collector in his report. Shri. Shevale has performed auditing for 38 years from 1969 to 2007 in one go, which means no auditing was done for all these years. Another point that finds mention in the report is that devotees donate expensive saris to Goddess Mahalakshmi. However, these saris were sold to a trader without inviting tenders (Annexure 7). The Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti has no control over its 3067 temples. The Committee does care about what is happening in these temples spread all over West Maharashtra and the Konkan region. This cannot be brushed aside as indifference or ignorance, because it is a deliberate attempt on the Committee’s part to encourage embezzlement. There is a need to investigate where the donations offered by devotees in these 3067 temples end up, as well as a need to check where these donations have been going over the last 45 years.
6. Mismanagement of Devasthan Samiti
Annexure 8 here (an extract from the report) shows that Rs. 10 lakh was given as an advance for laying tiles, that too without calling for tenders. It will be naive to think that malpractices were limited only to not calling for tenders. If tenders are called for, alert devotees can keep track of the proposed work and its progress. However, it seems that the 10 Lakhs given as advance is itself a misappropriation. On paper, the tiles have been laid, but that is it. Politicians appointed as trustees of the Devasthan Samiti and corrupt bureaucrats are hand in gloves with them. They think they own these temples; therefore, they do not take the trouble of inviting tenders. Also, they have been appointing people by flouting all rules. (Annexure 9)
7. Corrupt Charity Commissioner’s office supports politicians
In a Court hearing, a High Court Judge had commented that the highest cases of unrighteousness (Adharma) are found in the office of Dharmaday (Charity) Commissioner. The Devasthan Samiti has been set up under Mumbai Trust Act and it is necessary that the Charity Commissioner exercises control over this committee. The Charity Commissioner’s office has, however, shamelessly informed that the Devasthan Samiti neither presents any budget nor its annual reports. We know that the office of Charity Commissioner shows unwarranted interest in dealings of private trusts, their disputes and disposal of properties/wealth. Since there are greener pastures outside, probably the office of Charity Commissioner did not feel the need to graze on its own land.
8. Unrepairable damage to Dharma
We are not competent to measure the damage to Dharma caused in the last 45 years by this unholy nexus of politicians and bureaucrats. Every temple is a ‘Shakti-sthan’ for Hindus. Many prosperous temples provide their premises for auspicious programs which help in unification of Hindus; Hindus’ love and respect towards Dharma increases and their unification helps in removing differences based on caste and creed. When ‘Dharmabhiman’ increases, conversions taking place through enticements or misconceptions about Dharma stop. Few temples have undertaken drives to help poor students by giving scholarships, helping poor widows financially, offering medical help to Hindus etc. Had the Paschim Maharashtra Devasthan Samiti undertaken any such drive, it would have helped Hindus and Hindu Dharma. Financial losses incurred due to such sinful people can be recovered eventually, but how does one recover damages caused to Hindu Dharma ?
We have collected proof amounting to thousands of pages and further investigations are urgently required. The people involved in such malpractices should be punished by filing civil and criminal cases against them. All temples should be purged of politics/politicians. Laws and management rules should be amended as necessary. The Government should accomplish this with the help of persons and organizations with good character and virtues.
Annexure 1 – Comments by an officer named Shri. Vijay Achalia’s reference to land (25000 acres) and other wealth mismanaged by Paschim Maharashtra Devsthan Samiti
Annexure 2 -This document exposes how Paschim Maharashtra Devsthan Samiti had become ‘private property’ of Congress party
Annexure 3 – This document exposes corruption related thousands of crores of rupees to be taken as Mining Royalty from Mining companies carrying out mining activities in temple lands
Annexure 4 -This document exposes malpractices in transactions renting out properties and to let out temple lands
Annexure 5 -This document exposes malpractices by the members of Paschim Maharashtra Devsthan Samiti regarding land given on rent to others
Annexure 6 -This document exposes embezzlement of Gold and Silver ornaments donated to Temples by devotees
Annexure 7 -This document exposes the corruption related to giving away costly sarees offered to Shri Mahalaxmi Devi by devotees at throwaway prices
Annexure 8 – This document exposes the corruption related to the work of tile works in Shri Mahalaxmi Temple, Kolhapur
Annexure 9 – This document exposes illegal recruitment of employees by Paschim Maharashtra Devsthan Samiti