Let us continue our discussion about the sham that TN HR&CE is. Part 1 of this series can be found here: https://bigfundu.medium.com/the-tnhrce-fraud-part-1-1517bccde36d
We were talking about who controls our temples and established that it is not the priests but the TN HR&CE officials. Now, we can understand a few more things about the powers vested in these HR&CE officials.
HR&CE Commissioner has the weird superpower to change the temple asset registers
If you are ever wondering why Tamilnadu temples have so many thousands of idols being stolen, stop and bow down to the intelligence, however crude it might be, that enabled this particular section of the HR&CE act.
Does it not sound odd that if the HR&CE Commissioner just wants to change the asset register, the trustee has to change it?
Just think of these two questions the next time you see or hear someone talking about a temple’s asset register:
- What would happen when the Commissioner wants to remove an asset from the register?
- What kind of audit trail is being maintained for such changes to the asset registers?
If the trustee does not want to get fired, he better do what he is asked to. This is not a blockchain-based audit trail after all.
The HR&CE officials choose the board of trustees
I used to rejoice that TN HR&CE department is giving some temples to the board of trustees until I read through the HR&CE act itself and realized that the whole board of trustees thing is kind of a sham in itself.
First of all, let’s see who can become a trustee.
Amazing, is it not? I mean, anybody can become a trustee if he has ‘faith in God’.
Nobody will ask you which God or if you even believe in idol worship. You just need to say “I believe in Hinduism”. The law makes it plain and simple. Who knows what professing the Hindu religion means anyway and who is tracking if a trustee is not a practicing Hindu or has converted to another religion after some time.
The board of trustees has to be like the Pandavas as per the law — no, not as in the suffering but in a nicer way — maximum 5 in number.
If a temple’s board of trustees is formed, 3 of them will be appointed by the JC / DC / Commissioner. In addition, the State Government can appoint 2 members to the board. But the board size cannot be more than 5. So, in this game, no person from the community is invited. Sorry — you may try your luck in the next life-time or wait till the HR&CE Act is scrapped.
And you would be doubly lucky if you are a hereditary trustee of a temple. If you are one and you commit some malpractice, don’t worry. The law is your friend — the next in line in your family can succeed as the hereditary trustee. Of course, you would be out of luck if that person is mentally unfit, but you cannot blame the HR&CE act for that!
While we are at it, since you are a hereditary trustee, please also be the de-facto chairman of the board of trustees. The law gives it to you on a platter. Just don’t get into the hairs of the HR&CE officials because they may fire you citing that you are against ‘public interest’, whatever that means.
HR&CE officials have the fantastic ability to fix abysmally low lease amounts for temple properties
Now that is a superpower most would envy. The leases are supposed to be renewed every 3 years for temple properties.
But sometimes, the HR&CE Commissioners get really fancy with the idea of what is beneficial to the temple. So, they may lease the temple land for Rs 100 per property per year or Rs 1,00,00,000 per property per year and fix it for like 99 years, depending on what their mood for that morning is.
On one hand, there are news articles that say that the temple land rent has been suddenly hiked and to exorbitant levels since 2016 by the HR&CE officials. People are fighting against such injustice.
On the other hand, the TN HR&CE officials claimed in the court that there is literally no money coming out of temple assets (including the lands), so much so that they cannot even do one pooja per day in close to 12,000 temples.
Tamilnadu temples are having more than 4.75 lakh acres of land and several thousand buildings as properties as per the TN HR&CE website listing of temple assets.
For a period of 7 years, the income from all this property has been only Rs 960 crores (i.e.) an average of less than Rs 140 crore per year.
If you were owning so much property, you could lease each acre of land for about Rs 10,000 at least per year (that’s like peanuts really). This would earn Rs 470 crores for our temples from the land lease. A similar amount could be generated by leasing the buildings and vacant sites. So, easily 1000 crores could be generated with the lease of temple properties every year, against the amounts TN HR&CE is declaring.
This magic of making money disappear is puzzling indeed. One wonders if it is a really scientific way of looting temple property or just poor fund management!
Of all, this section (34-C) of the HR&CE Act is kind of the icing on the cake …
If you lease a temple property and plant a tree or build some structure on a leased temple land with the approval of the TN HR & CE commissioner, the temple has to pay you some money and not the other way.
As you can see, nothing is really safe in the hands of corrupt officials who get into high posts in the HR&CE department, because the powers vested in them are far too great for their own good and go unchecked most of the time.
There are not enough checks and balances in the system to prevent or even detect abuse of power by such officials.
We will continue exploring more in the next post of the series. In the meanwhile, if your blood boils at the injustice happening in the name of HR&CE Act, you may want to support the #FreeTNTemples campaign on your favorite social media.