The right-wing activist group Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) recently demanded a CBI enquiry into the state-government-run trust that administers 3,067 temples across Maharashtra, including the popular Mahalaxmi and Jyotiba temples at Kolhapur.
HJS has alleged that PashchimMaharashtra Devsthan Samiti (PMDS) is riddled with “huge financial scams” running into crores of rupees and intense “political interference” from the state government.
Headquartered at Kolhapur, the PDMS is controlled by the state law and judiciary department as per Bombay Public Trust Act, 1960 Chapter 7(A).
Arvind Pansare, the spokesperson of the Maharashtra unit of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, claimed, “The trust owned 23,000 acres of land as on 2009-10, the area shrank to 16,961 acres in the year 2013, and there is no record of it. Besides, bauxite mining was carried out at some places, but royalty worth Rs2-3 crore was not deposited for 12 years. There is no record of gold, silver and ornaments donated by the devotees either.”
HJS showed this paper an RTI reply in which the trust admits that its books were not audited from 1969 to 2004.
HJS has shot off a letter to CM Devendra Fadnavis, demanding immediate dissolution of the trust.
Rajaram Mane, the collector of Kolhapur who is also the chairperson of the PMDS admitted that the trust’s accounts were not audited for 35 years. Mane claimed, “Since I assumed charge, I took several steps and have raised the trust’s corpus of Rs35 crore to Rs65 crores. I have stopped unnecessary expenditures, and appointed independent evaluators to assess the antique ornaments.”
Admitting that land was poorly handled by the PMDS in the past, Mane said, “The PMDS doesn’t have the updated information about the land under its possession, which is spread out in six districts. Even the RTI information may not be true.”