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Will AP govt take over Sathya Sai Trust?

June 28, 2011 12:10 IST

High level discussions are on in the Andhra Pradesh government with regard to the takeover of the Shri Sathya Sai Central Trust. Ever since the death of Sathya Sai Baba, the trust has been mired in one controversy after another.

Sources in the AP government said that they would wait a while before coming to a final conclusion on this matter. However, as of now, the ongoing discussions suggest that they would like the affairs in Puttaparthi to be on the lines of the Tirupathi temple.

Currently, the people running the affairs at Puttaparthi are trustees who were selected by Baba. This means that the trustees have absolute control over the Rs 40,000 crore empire left behind by the Baba.

Government sources further added that if at all this new model is acceptable to the trust members, there would be around 11 members in the new trust which would also include members of the Andhra Pradesh government.

"However, some of the existing trustees would continue to be members," a government source added.

Currently the government does not have any control over the trust. In the past, it has never sought any details about the trust. However, with several issues dogging the trust, the government could no0 longer ignore it.

While one option would be to take over the trust, the other option is have control over it indirectly. For now, the trust enjoys an exemption, which means that it has independent control over all the affairs.

Now the government is contemplating withdrawing that exemption. It would have to bring into play Section 154 of the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997, which enables it to supervise the trust.

A final decision would however be taken in another 20 days, since the trust has been served with a notice, seeking details of all financial transactions made in the past 5 years. This would help the government ascertain whether there have been financial irregularities.

Moreover, there is a lot of pressure from the devotees and residents of Puttaparthi for the government to take over the trust. "We don't trust the trust," is what one gets to hear in this temple town.

Kiran Kumar, Andhra Pradesh Chief MJinister, is presiding over the matter, and has senior cabinet colleagues, the chief secretary, members of the Endowment department and also officials of the State Intelligence Bureau in his team.

Ponna Lakshmaiah, the minister for Endowments in Andhra Pradesh says that once they get the report from the trust, they would decide further on the matter. "There have been some allegations, and we find the need to look into it," he said.

The government in the meanwhile, transferred Narasimhalu, a deputy superintendent of police, as it was suspected that he was hand in glove with the trustees in siphoning off the funds. In addition to this, the government has also roped in the Income Tax department to look into the financial affairs of the trust and would await that report.

Furthermore, the government is also investigating the matter where some trustees have been accused of moving Rs 35.5 lakh in cash from the Yajur Mandir. The trust has however denied this, saying that this money belonged to the devotees.

Ratnakar, a trustee who is also Baba's nephew however says that everything in the trust is clean and they had nothing to do with the money. "We will provide all the details which will give the real picture," he added.

Vivky Nanjappa in Bengaluru