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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Publicising the name of defaulters - move by HR&CE - Temple Administration

In a closely contested market, non-performers simply perish.  In any Organisation, Management would take stringent action against those who mal-administer and non-perform.  

Worshipping the Supreme God in idol form – the ‘Archavatharam’ is considered most sacred for Hindus and there are thousands of puranic temples in Tamilnadu.  Temples are not merely places of worship, they have protected the literature, developed moral rectitude, awakened spirituality, functioned as places of music, art, sculpture, architecture, culture, and many a times as storage of food grains, a la granary.  Kings and Emperors who ruled this part of the land, glorified themselves by constructing  big temples and serving the God in many ways.  The Kings, patrons and later day rich barons, donated vast tracts of land and property to the Temple to ensure that they flourish, thereby the devotees also flourish.  They arranged for ‘annadanam’ – free distribution of food to devotees.
Kumbakonam Mahamakulam with many temples in background

Around 100 years ago, there was the system of Trustees, comprising primarily of those locals with good education, religious fervour and moral correctness – there were some instances where men at the helm indulged in some wrongful acts, - the need for a strong corrective measures was felt.  Then came the Govt. control.  Now, in  Tamilnadu, the temples are administered by Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Administration Department [HR&CE].  Primarily, they are not owners but managers of the properties of the Temples and theoretically should be taking care of the property without altering or interfering with the religious affairs, agamas and holy practices.  By their own admission HR&CE  considers  the maintenance of temples as its first and foremost duty keeping the greatness of temples in mind and carries out its functions accordingly.

There is no similar set-up organization nor Govt control over the places of worship of other religions -  Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Administration Department supervises  the  administration  of  Hindu and Jain Religious Institutions and Hindu Charitable  Endowments in Tamilnadu.  It has 36356 temples; 56 Mutts and 17 Jain temples under its control.    The Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951, came into force from 28th August 1951.  There have been amendments to the Act from time to time.

Of the many functions and responsibilities of the HR&CE Dept is the fixation of fair rent for the sites and buildings belonging to the religious institutions.  It is stated that these are to be revised periodically, atleast once in three years by a committee constituted by the Commissioner.  The fair rent is fixed in accordance with the market value of the land and cost of the building worked out as per Government Order.   There is another, more important responsibility, that of ‘Temple Renovation’ which mostly occur with the support of many philanthropists and religiously minded people.  

Recently, there has been news of Temples in Tamilnadu publicizing the Name of rent defaulters of properties belonging to the temple.  A section of the Press has hailed this move as stating that this exposes the defaulters, putting them to shame.    It is stated that what warnings and legal action could not achieve has been accomplished by a piece of paper. One newspaper reported that rattled by their names and addresses being publicised in notices plastered on temple walls, red-faced tenants,who have defaulted on payment of rent for living in properties belonging to shrines,are queuing up at offices of temple administrators to pay up their arrears.  How much of this is factual and how many persons have paid so, perhaps only that reporter knows !!

It is stated that at  Mylapores Kapaleeswarar temple,roughly 1 crore of the 12 crore outstanding has been recovered over two weeks.  The notice boards have been placed prominently in all the major temples across the state where the defaulter list is long. At the Kapaleeswarar temple in Chennai,a list of 30 to 40 names is on display. The total arrears as on date total 12 crore. There are 447 tenants occupying properties owned by the temple .Of this, around 200 tenants pay rents promptly. The persons on the list are defaulters for a long period and a tenant with 3 crore arrears tops the list,the official said.

Perhaps you would have found a similar board in the Temple in your area too.  Don’t you get these basic Qs in mind :

ü      247 defaulters out of 447 represent 55% - what were the Administrators doing all the time ? – this % and no. might be worser at some places
ü      The amounts now shown represent the ‘rent fixed – decades ago’.  It is but common knowledge that temple properties are rented / leased out at paltry rates – reportedly people pay in Hundreds when the rate is much much higher in every locality, especially in cities.
ü      There is fear that there is foolproof system of records of properties and there are allegations of sale of land too.
ü      Many a times, temple lands are given away for social welfare schemes and Govt projects – is that right ?  why the Administrators  of the temple have never protested this. 
ü      When the lands / property were donated to temple, those donors had only the welfare of that particular temple in mind and can an administrator use it for any other purpose other than the purpose for which it was intended
ü      There are instances of people taking a property on lease / rent and making more money out of the same by subletting the same. Are the authorities taking enough measures to curb this and ensure that Lord gets all His due ?
ü      In a couple of instances, it was noted that those occupying the property of Temple belong to other religion
ü      On birthday of leaders, the Temple funds are utilized to feeding people.  While feeding poor is a noble aim, why should temple fund be used for non-religious purpose, especially remembrance of a past leader.  For all those who regard their leader, the same can be arranged by individuals and at their Party offices.  Should Temples be made choultries
ü      There are temples which are not properly maintained – where water seeps when it rains; where floors are not proper; where the infrastructure needs repairs / renovations
ü      The outskirts and places around the temple in some instances are not properly maintained – far cry from cleanliness and hygiene – what is the action taken by the administrators on this.  

There is growing frustration among common public and those who regularly go to temples that, Temples are not properly administered and maintained by those, who get paid highly for the very same purpose.    When Crores of revenue is not realized from the property, should those Administrators who have not been able to perform their duty be penalized or hailed for the same act

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


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