unholy nexus causes dent in temple revenues

unholy nexus causes dent in temple revenues
Highlights

The historic 400-year-old Gopalakrishna Matham at the Vinayak Chowrasta in the town earns a paltry Rs 3,691 as against the supposed income of Rs 5 crore from its 1259-acre endowment created by the Nizam rulers, thanks to the benami transactions entered into by the Endowments department officials in cohorts with their cronies. 

Adilabad: The historic 400-year-old Gopalakrishna Matham at the Vinayak Chowrasta in the town earns a paltry Rs 3,691 as against the supposed income of Rs 5 crore from its 1259-acre endowment created by the Nizam rulers, thanks to the benami transactions entered into by the Endowments department officials in cohorts with their cronies.

The officials have been depriving revenue up to Rs 2crore to the temple by way of leasing 54 shops in the temple complex at a throw-away rent. As a result, the temple is getting Rs 70 lakh per annum towards rent as against the Rs 2 crore. The temple matham owns nine acres in the town and 1259 acres at Kotturu in Talamadugu mandal and an obscure village in Yavatmal Taluk of neighbouring Maharashtra. The Endowments department officials got the lands certified as the most fertile lands.

Later, they entered into lease agreements with 70 farmers, benami holders of the officials, to pay a lease amount of Rs 3 per acre. The officials and their benami holders are depriving the temple revenue to the tune of several crores of rupees paying a lease amount of a paltry Rs 3 per acre. This has been the practice for the past three decades.

According to the latest revision of the lease, each acre commands a lease price of Rs 10,000. At this rate, the loss to the temple per annum is put at Rs 5 crore. During the past 30 years, the cumulative loss would be at least Rs 150 crore. The temple matham gets a paltry Rs 3,691. Even if some tenant farmers did not pay the paltry amount, the Endowments officials are hardly taking any action against the leaseholders.

Several doubts are being raised at officials keeping the lease amount constant in spite of an increase of land lease rates in the open market. In Kotturu, Gopalakrishna matham seer Yogananda Bharati’s disciple Santosh is cultivating 16 acres of the temple lands as a tenant farmer. He is not even paying the paltry amount unlike the others.

The tenant farmer in spite of getting lakhs of rupees as revenue by cultivating temple lands, he continues to harp on incurring losses. The temple matham seer and Endowments department officials entrusted the cultivation of the temple lands to their cronies depriving the state exchequer of its revenue. Going one step further, some benami holders have obtained pattas in their name for the temple lands.

There are allegations that each benami holder is paying Rs 5n000 an acre per year to grease the palms of the officials. That explains the inaction of the officials against the defaulters of the land lease of Rs 3 an acre. The devotees have been appealing to the state government to save the temple lands as there is every danger of the lands getting lost.

In the temple complex, there are 54 shops in a centrally located place. The demand for the shops is very high and it is not easy to get at least one shop on lease. The shop-keepers are paying a rent of Rs 3,000 a month which otherwise fetches at least Rs 15,000. For shops that could be rented out to Rs 30,000 a month, the traders have been paying only Rs 6,000 or Rs 7,000 a month.

The temple devotees have been charging the officials not bothering to lease the shops for a higher rent because they are preoccupied with collections from the sale of coconuts and temple prasadam. The officials have leased out the shops to the rent defaulters, they lamented suspecting something fishy in the deal. They want the shops be leased out to other traders evicting the existing traders, who have been settled down in the rented property since time immemorial.

The devotees have been appealing to the temple matham to give the shops on lease again to new comers for a higher rent. Instead of cracking the whip on defaulters of the land lease, the Endowments officials are understood to have written to the State government seeking compensation to the tenant farmers for the crop loss. The temple matham seer Yoganand Bharati went on record that the temple would take possession of the temple lands if the government were to give compensation on the temple lands.

The temple officials agree that the lands were encroached and the tenant farmers have full rights on the lands. The devotees have been cornering the officials seeking to know the reason behind their apprehension of taking back temple lands from tenants for having defaulted payment of the lease amount. They urge the government to take steps to take action against the encroachers of the temple lands and defaulters of the lease amount. Also, action is sought against those who gave pattas to tenant farmers on temple lands.

By Thotla Chinna Anjaiah

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