DMK government brought HR and CE to look after the temples but encroached and sold several acres of temple land illegally.
The Hindu phobic DMK government has floated a tender recently to monetize immovable assets for better productive utilization. Earlier it came out with a GO to melt gold ornaments and jewellery belonging to temples under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE), which Madras HC stayed.
The Dravidian government, particularly the DMK government, is keen on looting the temple assets, including its vast properties and rare idols. This is a systematic loot. After the court-monitored probe, the then IG, AG Pon Manickavel (idol wing), brought to light the magnitude of the loot of idols all these years by the successive Dravidian governments; And no wonder why he faced stiff opposition from then the AIADMK government by cases after cases to stop him from probing further deep in the matter. HR and CE came into existence during the DMK government with an avowed aim of better management of temples. But it was another way round. Several acres of temple lands were alienated, encroached, or sold illegally.
Rare antique value Jewels with gems were gone or replaced by imitations. Income from the temples is being used to pay staff salaries, their allowances, buy high-end luxury cars for top officials, and leave the temples in the utter discard. Many temples do not have one-time poojas, while several others are in dilapidated conditions. After a spate of petitions filed in courts and orders from them made things a little difficult for them to carry out their designs.
Indian Pride project founder Anurag Saxena said in 2018, "The Tamil Nadu Government themselves have admitted to theft of over 1,100 murtis. Reality is much more. Without Pon Manickavel and the Idol Wig, TN temples would have been stripped of their idles; a huge victim of divisive politics."
DMK government's move to appoint non-Brahmins and women priests is now put on hold by Madras High Court. Another move, namely the melting of temple jewellery, met with the same fate. The Madras HC, in October, has restrained the TN government from melting gold jewellery donated to temples for monetization until trustees are appointed.
The incorrigible DMK government now has decided to monetize immovable properties. A tender has been floated recently for selecting an agency to prepare a road map of nonproductive assets. The document read, "The assets are not productively utilized and there are also instances of encroachments. In order to monetize the assets through productive utilization, the HR and CE department has decided to take up projects with funding from temples or by involving private developers… so as to facilitate their religious autonomy, financial viability and sustained development."
"The ownership of the assets will rest with the temples, while the development rights will be offered to the developers for a specific period. This is nothing but similar to leasing the properties. Those who have taken temple properties on lease have defaulted in paying the arrears of rents years together. A similar fate will happen in the new proposal too. This is against the wishes of donors who have given lands and jewels to the temple. The HR and CE failed in their mandate and wants to lease them at throwaway prices to their Benami. This is atrocious," said Murali, a temple movement activist. Under the HR and CE fold, there are 38,652 Hindu and Jain religious institutions.
On 16th November, the Madras High Court has restrained the HR and CE department from setting up any more arts and science colleges other than the four which had already been planned to be instituted using temple surplus funds without obtaining the express leave of the court. While hearing a petition filed by T R Ramesh of Indic Collective Trust and Hindu Worshippers society, a division bench said it would be a condition precedent for the four colleges to introduce a stream of religious instructions in the Hindu religion. The judges said, "HR and CE provide only for the voluntary transfer of surplus funds of revenue rich temple to a common good fund. With respect, the voluntary aspect of the transfer of funds is robbed if the transfer is at the behest of a fit person who is appointed by the HR and CE dept. or government". Petitioner Ramesh contended that when most temples, funds in the state did not have trustees and were being run by fit persons (interim administrators appointed by the government).
Isha Foundation head Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev has moved an application in Chennai High Court seeking direction to externally audit nearly 44,000 temples under the HR and CE in the state. In his PIL petition, he said the HR and CE policy note for 2020-21 states 34,102 temples in Tamil Nadu have an annual income of less than Rs 10,000, which is a matter of great concern. Sadguru, who has given the call to free the temples from government control, said, "The temples must be maintained properly so that the spiritual process and the rituals are performed for the people to experience the purpose for which temples were consecrated."
He said that an external audit of the nearly 44,000 temples was required to find out the status of temple structures, lands, immovable assets and possession and occupation of the temple properties, the rents received and the dues. He said in his petition, "The other assets like temple charities, form of rituals, and spiritual practices associated with the individual temples, funds being received from the people and the fees and the state of these funds is also required to be ascertained." The HC sought a response from the DMK government.
Despite court directions, the DMK government is hell-bent on spooking its nose on Hindu temples only for their personal development. The only way is to free all the temples from the HR and CE fold and should be given to an independent panel for better administration.