Bankrupt Kerala Government eyes temple wealth
An India Today report on the eve of the 2013 Onam narrated how the Kerala Government was “hard put to raise money for the payment of the usual Onam salary advances, festival bonuses etc to its 5 lakh-strong employees and pensioners.” The same report also paints exact of affairs in God’s own country:
According to the state finance minister K M Mani, the outgo from exchequer on this count would be Rs.2500 crores.
This is even after the state government decided to give only 25 per cent of the October month’s salary as advance unlike the usual practice to provide full.
“If two months’ full salary is to be given, the bill would reach Rs.4200 crores” said Mani.
Even the reduced plan is too much for the cash-strapped state that it intends to sell government securities of 10 year-tenure for raising Rs.1100 crore to meet Onam expenses.
Indeed, even a cursory Google search on the subject reveals a pretty stark picture of Kerala’s financial health.
And so, in order to remedy this, the Kerala Government has set its eyes on the wealth of Devaswom (temple) and Welfare Fund Boards. This reminds us of the UPA Government’s proposal last year to take over the gold of major Hindu temples including Tirupati.
However, the Kerala Government’s efforts have not succeeded because the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions (TCHRI) Act, which governs the Devaswom Boards has provisions that prohibit the diversion of its funds to non-temple activities. The Act provides that the Board’s funds can only be used for the upkeep and propagation of Hindu religion and allied institutions. Additionally, the Act specifically states that Devaswoms are independent bodies and the government does not reserve the authority to intervene in their administration.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) for example, has bank deposits of about Rs.170 crore and gets an annual grant of Rs. 76 crore.