Govt seeks transparency in Sai Baba Trust affairs
Calls for details of its functioning for the last five years
The Andhra Pradesh government has decided to intervene in the affairs of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust by asking it to furnish details of its functioning.
The government move is aimed at restoring the respect that the Sathya Sai Baba institutions had commanded during the life of its spiritual founder and also for bringing transparency in the functioning of the trust, according to sources. Controversies have dogged the trust ever since Sai Baba’s death, much to the consternation of his devotees.
Speaking to Deccan Herald from Hyderabad, Principal Secretary, (Endowments), K V Ramana said: “We have sought a report from the trust, including all details of its functioning for the last five years. The report will include financial details of the Trust. The intention of seeking this report is to restore the faith of the devotees of Sai Baba, which is the priority of the government.” Sources in the finance department said a decision on setting up a “monitoring committee,” even a possible takeover of the Trust, will depend on the government’s evaluation of the report. The government has served a 10-day deadline on the trust to furnish details.
“The intention of the government is not so much to take over the Trust and dismantle what has been built over several years. It is to bring in a ‘more’ transparent system to help restore the faith among devotees, which seems to be fast ‘depleting,’ ” sources said.
The government had, under the leadership of the then Principal Secretary, Finance, L V Subramanya, sent a team to inquire into the functioning of the Trust in April last. The decision to demand such a report from the Trust was taken on Monday. It prompted the Trust to convene a meeting immediately. According to one of the trustees, all the members attended the meeting.
The Trust also seem to have yielded to pressure from the government and the devotees. The Trust promised that it would publish an annual report this November, detailing its functioning and financial deals.
The recent seizure of Rs 35 lakh cash and allegations of financial misappropriation when the spiritual leader was battling for his life has prompted the trust to bring out such a report, though it is not required by the law.
Reacting to the state government’s demand for a report and rumours of the trust takeover, trustee V Srinivasan said: “If they want anything from us, there will be complete co-operation. We will give them what they want. However, we have not given them any reason to take over the trust, but the government is supreme.”
He ruled out “suggestions” that the Sai Trust should be run on the lines of the Tirupati temple trust. Srinivasan said “the Tirupati temple trust is religious. Ours is a public charitable trust. It cannot be run on the same lines.”
“We are abiding by all statutory requirements. And there is no question of any foul play with the finances of the trust,” Council Management Member of Sathya Sai Trust Nagananda stressed. The report will have some financial details, although publishing all the details is not possible.
Srinivasan added that the first report would be out this November.
Trust paid I-T of Rs 9.75 crore
Amid deepening suspicions of foul play in the inventory of the late Sathya Sai Baba’s belongings, the Trust, on Tuesday said: “We have paid about Rs 9.75 crore as income tax (I-T) for the inventory, even though there is no such demand from the I-T Department.
Around Rs 12 crore in cash and nearly 98 kg of gold and 307 kg were found from Yajur Mandir, the personal chamber of late Sathya Sai Baba, at Prashanti Nilayam earlier.
Also, trustee V Srinivasan said: “If there is a requirement to pay more after the thorough valuation of the inventory is complete, we are ready to pay even that.”
Clearing the cloud
* AP govt gives 10 days to the Trust to furnish all financial data
* Govt has no plans to take over Trust, says official
* Govt had sent a team to inquire into the functioning of the Trust in April
* Trust agrees to bring out an annual report in November
* Trust says it will cooperate with the government
* Sai Trust cannot be run on the lines of Tirupati Temple, says trustee