Andhra govt to probe into Sai 
Baba Trust amid embezzlement

HYDERABAD — Has the Andhra Pradesh government finally decided to take a tough and firm stand against the ugly situation developing at Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi over the past few days? Will the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, which had a free run without any accountability to any authority during the spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba’s life time, be reined in post his death?

All indications are that the government, after weeks of silence and inaction over the murky happenings in the multi-million dollar empire established by Sai Baba, has finally decided to crack the whip against the Trust. In a terse communication to the Trust, the government has sought a report on its assets, financial dealings and future plans. This is the first time that such a directive has been sent to the Trust since its inception in 1972.

And the reasons are not far to seek - the recent recovery of Rs 35.50 lakh in cash while being smuggled out of the ashram at Puttaparthi, the raging succession battle and differences within Baba’s family, have tarnished the image of the Trust.

Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy held a high-level meeting with officials here to discuss the developments and decided to step in to clear the mess, keeping in view the sentiments of millions of Baba’s devotees.

There have been allegations from a section of devotees that the Trust members were trying to siphon out the huge cash and other valuables including gold found in “Yajurveda Mandir,” the opulent personalchamber of Sai Baba. “In the past four decades, the government had never interfered in the affairs of the Trust. But now, we are compelled to intervene in the wake of serious allegations of embezzlement of funds in Prashanti Nilayam. We have sought a report from the Trust and depending on their response, we will decide on how to proceed further,” State Endowments Minister P Lakshmaiah said.

According to official sources, the government may consider revoking certain exemptions granted to the Trust under Section 154 of the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997, which would enable the government to have direct supervision over the Trust affairs.

The police have also been directed to act firmly in connection with allegations of financial irregularities in the Trust. The police have already served notices to Trust members R J Rantakar, who is Baba’s nephew, and V Srinivasan, asking them to appear before the District Superintendent of Police before Saturday for questioning. Ratnakar, however, has sought more time to reply to the notice and appear before the police.

The local revenue authorities have been instructed to submit a comprehensive report on whether there were any land transactions by the Trust members or their associates in the recent past. Income

Tax authorities were also alerted to conduct investigations into the unaccounted cash inside the ashram.

More news from WORLD