The Madras High Court in a recent directive asked the Government of Tamil Nadu to retrieve nearly 50,000 acres of prime property belonging to Hindu temples and Mutts, which have been usurped by encroachers.
Justice R Mahadevan of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court accepted the contention of a devotee who proved with statistics and details extracted through Right to Information Act that 40 years ago, temples and related religious institutions in the State owned 5.25 lakh acres of agricultural land which has come down to 4.78 lakh acres by 2017.
The justice ordered the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to initiate urgent measures to retrieve the 50,000 acres of prime property and report back to the Court about the action taken report. Temple worshippers allege that the Dravidian Governments which ruled the State during the last five decades disposed off these prime lands to their relations and associates and for gratification.
The Commissioner of the department of HR&CE have been told by Justice Mahadevan to file a report within one month listing the details of the land, sanctions granted by him for alienating the properties of the Temples in the State either by way of sale, exchange, mortgage or lease beyond five years with copy of the approval from the Government of the day.
The Justice took serious note of the fact that the Government of Tamil Nadu did not comply with a previous order issued by the court on October 31, 2014. “If you fail this time also, the court would not hesitate to initiate appropriate proceedings,” said Justice R Mahadevan.
Meanwhile, a group of professionals who are devotees have come out with a detailed proposal to take care of the needs of the Hindu society in the State when the temples are released from the shackles of politicians and the Government.
Temple Worshippers Society, an organisation launched by devotees in 2011 that include professionals including former bankers and SAP experts have come out with a report stating that Temples and Mutts in the State were in possession of 5,25,000 acres of agricultural land. and other lands out of which not less than 1,00,000 acres come under urban and semi urban areas.
T R Ramesh, President of the society, who left his job in an international bank to work for the temple cause said the Temples in the State owned 33,627 sites measuring 29 crore sq.ft of land and 22,600 buildings with total area of 2.44 crore sq ft besides the agricultural lands.
The department of HR&CE has been claiming till recently that they get only Rs 58 crore per annum as lease or rent. The information provided by the department under the RTI states that 305 grounds of prime property in a prestigious area of Chennai belonging to the famous Shri Kapaleeswarar temple was getting only Rs. 3000 p.m. as income. “The Government rate for residential rent in this area Rs. 3,00000 per ground (2400 sq. feet) per month. This lot is just one of the properties of that temple in Chennai,” Ramesh told The Pioneer.
The team of professionals have also found that the properties of Tamil Nadu Hindu Institutions could realise an income not less than Rs 6,000 crore per year with which the entire educational and medical needs of the poor among Hindu community members could be taken care of.
“We can offer scholarship of Rs 50,000 per annum to 100,000 students, health benefits to 100,000 deserving patients at an average of Rs 50,000 per person, revive Vedic Institutions (veda patasalas) , establish medical, dental, veterinary and engineering colleges with hostel facilities. We can also offer scholarship and financial aid to needy students,” said Ramesh.
But for this to happen, the temples and the mutts should be released from the clutches of the government and political parties, said Ramesh.