Tuesday, January 24, 2017

HR & CE Irregularities

Parthasarathy Temple has been functioning without Trustees – The EO also doubles up as the ‘Fit Person’

No letter on the appointment of EOs at Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple where too the EO plays the conflicting dual role of a Fit Person 
Large Truck Movement in front of Nachiyar Koil Divya Desam poses a risk to the structure, while the proposed new Raja Gopuram at Thiru Vellarai will come up shortly before the Panel of Experts appointed by the Madras HC
Former Citibank staffer TR Ramesh, now President of the Temple Worshippers Society has committed himself to full time service of restoring the ancient temples in Tamil Nadu to its old glory and is taking on the HR & CE on several irregularities at ancient temples in Tamil Nadu including the issue of renovation in temples that has posed challenges on many fronts over the last few decades.

Traditionally the trustees managed the entire affairs of ancient temples in Tamil Nadu. And then into the later period of the 1st half of the 20th Century, with Government taking over the administration of temples, Executive Officers were appointed to take care of the daily functioning of temples. Many of these large temples were categorised as ‘Notified Temples’, a decade before independence (The Rama temple in Vaduvur was one such Notified temple and the 5000 acres associated with the temple has now come down to 50 acres)

Irregularities in Appointment of Executive Officers?
In a letter dated 23rd April 1968 (a copy of which is available with me), the Commissioner had written (to the EO of an ancient Divya Desam) stating that the notification relating to temples ceased to be in force from 15 July 1966 (it had actually ceased in 1965 but was extended by a year) with reference to Section 75A of the HR & CE act 1959, as amended by the Madras Act 16 of 1965.

He stated in that letter that the powers and duties of the EO as defined in the commissioner’s orders dated 8 January 1953 were not in force now. And that the EO of the temples have to now be appointed as per Sec 45 of the HR & CE Act and the powers and duties of the EO and the trustees were now defined in Commissioner’s D. Dis dated 29 June 1966.

The commissioner states in that detailed letter of April’68 that the Executive Officer shall draw up a rough estimate of the probable disbursements and expenses to be made and incurred and obtain the previous sanction of the trustees for the same. The Executive Officer shall be responsible for the proper maintenance of all records, accounts and registers and for the due submission to the trustees under Act. He also states in the letter that all the employees shall be subject to the disciplinary control of the trustees under section 56 of the Act.

‘Fit Person’ in a Temple - Conflict over the dual role
Any large expense relating to the temple that goes out from the income of the temple has to be processed through the trustees. Where there are no trustees, for any reason, the Government appoints a ‘Fit Person’ for an interim period to play the role of the trustees.

The petitioner in the suo moto case (relating to restoration and preservation of ancient temples) in the Madras High Court has written a letter recently to the Amicus Curaie Shri. PS Raman bringing to his notice that the Fit Persons who are functioning in Temples in lieu of the Board of Trustees are to be appointed for only an interim period.

G.Os 223 and 264 ((v) and (vi) of Part II above) state that the Fit Persons are to be appointed as an interim arrangement to perform ‘operation of bank accounts, daily poojas, abhisheka, endowments, festival expenses, employee salaries and the like.’

The ‘Fit Person’ cannot take major decisions relating to Renovations, Kumbabishekams etc. Further the interim period of appointment of Fit Persons is limited to a maximum of 3 months as prescribed by the ‘Functioning of the Board of Trustee Rules’. The powers to manage the funds and to approve disbursal of funds for festival expenses, repairs and restoration efforts remained with the trustees.

Parthasarathy Temple – Big External disbursements approved by ‘Fit Person’
In the Parthasarathy temple in Thiruvallikeni, Ramesh says that there have been no trustees for 40 years and the EO plays the ‘conflicting’ dual role of both the EO/DC and the Fit Person, creating an inherent conflict of interest and a bias. Thus the person placing the request for funds (the EO) and the person approving and authorising such requests (the Fit Person) are one and the same in this temple!!!!

In an application placed under the RTI act, an exclusive copy of which is available with me, it has been seen that over a period of 5 years, the Parthasarathy temple has disbursed a significant amount of funds for non-temple / non-devotee related purposes. Some of these include over Rs. 10lakhs disbursed for the construction of a conference room in the Commissioner’s office at the HR & CE headquarters in Madras and Rs. 5lakhs for private exhibitions conducted in the city. Ramesh is of the view that such authorisation would have been unlikely had there been independent trustees in place at the temple.

Thiruvannamalai Temple
Similar is the case at the Arunachaleswarar temple in Thiruvannamalai. In a RTI reply, the temple has stated that there is no copy of the appointment order of EO subsequent to 1953, though being a notified temple, there should have been an EO appointment made in or subsequent to 1966 after the earlier notification had ceased to exist.

When trustees themselves are appointed for a period of two years, how can a ‘Fit Person’ (who is an interim replacement of a trustee) stay in office for years together and act in this dual role both at Thiruvallikeni and Thiruvannamalai.

In several of the high profile notified temples in Tamil Nadu, there have been no copies of the appointment order of the Executive Officer.

Despite a number of irregularities there, the Kumbabhishekam has been slated for February 6.

PIL in Madras HC shortly
He is planning to file a PIL at the Madras High Court within the next fortnight on issues relating to extended stint of Fit Persons, among other irregularities.

EOs cannot authorise Renovation Funding
In relation to repair / restoration / renovation works (commonly understood as works leading up to the Samprokshanam/Kumbabhishekam), it is only the Trustees of temples who have the powers under the Rules to take up any civil work. The Executive Officers have been given no powers concerning such restoration/renovation works.  Also, it is only the Trustee or Board of Trustees who have the authority to spend the funds of the temple.  The Executive Officers cannot decide, initiate or authorise spending of funds at temples.

Ramesh is also taking up cases of such irregularities that have been seen in many ancient temples in Tamil Nadu of late.

New Raja Gopuram at Thiru Vellarai?
As per the rules, the temple buildings and premises shall not be used for purposes not connected with or arising from the worship, usages and observations of such temples.  No executive authority of a temple shall be entitled to introduce innovations concerning the time, place or mode of worship in the temple which might pre-judicially affect the rights and facilities which worshippers had generally exercised before 13th May, 1947.

Ramesh is of the view that annadhana halls and new sannadhis built should be carefully removed from all those temples that are now applying before the Committee of Experts for undertaking repairs and renovation works.

In his letter to the Amicus Curiae ( PS Raman), Ramesh has pleaded with him to direct the panel to ensure that no civil work that lacks the legal sanction and the heritage propriety is approved for execution in ancient heritage temples of Tamil Nadu so as to not cause damage to the aesthetic and archeological significance of such ancient heritage temples.

One such temple that is currently before the panel of experts appointed by the Madras High Court is the Pundarikakshan Divya Desam in Thiruvellarai (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2016/10/thiru-vellarai-divya-desam.html) where a new 7 Tier Raja Gopuram is sought to be constructed at the Northern entrance. 

I am in possession of a over 100 page booklet brought out by the temple showcasing structural strength of the proposed Raja Gopuram, among meeting other requirements. 

The temple authorities including the priests have come up with a document that endorses the view that this is in conformity with the Pancharatra Agama and are likely to place this proposition before the Panel.

Another view is that this is an incomplete structure - one of the many during the period of the Rayas-  that may have been halted in the middle for any of the 'unknown' scenarios prevailing at that time and that it should be seen through to its logical conclusion if it conforms to the  Agama requirement and if all the architectural, archeological and structural mandates are fulfilled for a half complete, unfinished Gopuram at the entrance is seen as inauspicious.

One will have to wait and watch as to how the panel of experts appointed to look into such issues view the proposed new construction when it comes up for discussion, possibly sometime next month.

Large Trucks in front of Nachiyar Koil Divya Desam
In Nachiyar Koil Divya Desam, large trucks carrying heavy duty equipments are constantly seen passing on the district highway adjacent to the Eastern Raja Gopuram. As one stands at the entrance of the Raja Gopuram, one can hear and feel a mild tremor at the time of such large trucks passing in front of the Raja Gopuram.

It is important to restrict the movement of such large trucks and heavy vehicles so as to not cause long term damage to the structure of the temple.  Typically, there are restrictions place on such movement in any ancient historical temples and one does not usually find heavy duty trucks passing frequently in front of or near Divya Desams. However, given its location, large trucks in recent times have been making their way (from Thiruvarur) right in front of Nachiyar Koil Divya Desam and this will pose a threat to the structure of the temple (over the last decade, this road has been made a one way and hence the buses and large vehicles coming from Kumbakonam towards Thiruvarur do not pass through the temple and take a small de-tour).

The HR & CE officials may have to communicate to the transport department on the challenges to the temple arising on account of heavy trucks plying past this ancient Mani Mada Koil built by Ko Chenganan Chozhan and accordingly redirect such trucks ahead of the Divya Desam on the Southern side.


Unknown said...

Good we will support you sir

Anonymous said...

If HE does something for us will be Good.

(long time resident of Thiruvannamalai)