25 June 2011

Sai Baba's personal chamber: India's Swiss Bank?

The Sathya Sai Trust, which manages the multi-crore empire of late godman Sathya Sai Baba has been under severe scrutiny and criticism both from the authorizes and the public after Sai Baba's abode was opened which revealed a treasure trove of 98 kg of gold, 307 kg of silver and Rs 11.56 crore cash. While the gold was valued at Rs 20 crore, silver stocks totaled Rs 1.6 crore apart from the heap of cash in crores.

The opening of Yajur Mandir broke a long established lie that the Trust accepted donations only through cheques. As the Deccan Chronicle reporter noted, the Yajur Mandir appeared to be a mini-Swiss bank for top political leaders, celebrities and industrialists to deposit their black money as the government had exempted the trust from reporting its income and expenditure details. The article quoted an employee in Prashanti Nilayam as saying that a kilometer-long road connecting Yajur Mandir to the Hill View Stadium was the channel for depositing the stash.

It is reported that heaps of jewelry and precious diamonds were not counted when the treasure trove of Yajur Mandir was opened allegedly shifting them to a safe destination. In different incidents, around 5.35 crores worth cash has been seized from vehicles going out of ashram so far after the godman's death. Speculations are high that large amount of gold and money have were transported out of ashram before officials opened Baba's personal chamber.

However, it's reported that the AP government is contemplating over the possibilities of taking over the controversial Sathya Sai Central Trust following the seizure of a huge amount of cash from some people close to the trust members.

It's also learned that the officials are waiting for someone to file public interest litigation (PIL) in the Andhra Pradesh High Court to investigate into the developments in the late Sathya Sai Baba's ashram. In addition AP Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has directed the Vigilance & Enforcement (V&E) department to look into the matter.

The multi-billion dollar question is why Baba, who so disdains money and property, kept huge amount of wealth in his private abode of which the Trust can neither claim accountability nor transparency.