TN government's appointment of audit inspectors for Hindu temples raises eyebrows as the state reels under Corona

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Observers say that such appointments are “capital receipts” for the ruling party. TN Government and HR and CE Dept are clandestinely trying to ‘close’ audit objections at the earliest and this team would be used for that and to conduct many pending audits in 100s of temples.

TN Temple Audit_1 &n
Tamil Nadu government’s decision to appoint 30 audit inspectors for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department has raised many eyebrows at a time when the COVID 19 is at its peak in the state. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced the appointment of 30 audit inspectors for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment department (HR and CE) and as a token personally handed over the appointment orders to five audit inspectors at a function held in Secretariat recently. The newly appointed audit officials successfully cleared the TNPSC examination and personal interviews.
A retired HR and CE official said the state is split into 19 zones. There are two assistant audit offices and 17 zone-wise audit offices. He said these appointments are routine and were made through TNSPC process. It is to be remembered that the government announced in March this year that there would be no new appointments and no retirement of existing staff due to Corona pandemic.
But T.R.Ramesh, president of Temple Worshipers Society informed this correspondent that the appointments are “capital receipts” for the ruling party. He said 15 lakh audit objections were pending from 1986. Ramesh said “TN Government and HR and CE are clandestinely trying to ‘close’ audit objections at the earliest. This team would be used for that and to conduct many pending audits in 100s of temples” he said.
Advocate B Jagannath, who is dealing with HR and CE related cases, told Organiser that there are over 44,000 temples under HR and CE fold and for better maintenance and avoiding irregularities, there is a provision for the auditing process.
Describing the system, he said, Chief Audit officer is functioning from Nungambakkam Headquarters. “Under him, there are regional audit officers and assistant audit officers. They have to do an audit of temples annually under their administrative control and send reports to senior officers under whom they are reporting. This has to be on 1st July ( Fasli). Fasli year is 12 months from July to June” he said.
According to the HR and CE act, five audits included Land, Renovation ( Thiruppani), Idol, Jewel and Special audit. Temple Executive Officers are mandated to maintain 15 column register. The land audit officer has to ensure details of properties, land survey number, extent, boundary, donor, the purpose of the donation, title deeds and patta details. The audit also has to ascertain the ’A’ register details, the property tax paid, power bill, door number, street, village name, etc. They also have to verify if it is leased out through auction and rent paid details etc. have to be entered. Similarly, the officers have to do other audits.
“If they performed their duties as envisaged in the act in true letter and spirit and without negligence, it would have saved properties worth crores from being encroached, alienated and rare and valuable idols, artefacts, murals, being philandered and smuggled to foreign countries by vested interests. It could have created a zero encroachment and revenue surplus temples, but it is in the other way. It is an indisputable and undeniable fact that for decades together, there has been a systematic loot and smuggling of temple properties unchecked and right under the nose of HR and CE.
It established that both Dravidian parties were hand in glove when the High Court appointed former police official IG Pon Manickavel to recovered the stolen idols. AIADMK government tried all tricks under its bag to stall his probe and appointment. He was not denied an extension and was ordered to hand over all probe details and documents. As feared, the government informed Madras High court that diaries pertaining to the probe were missing. It would show how they are working diligently to ensure truth never comes out.” Besides the HR and CE act, the government time and again had issued rules and regulations with regard to auditing procedures.
HR and CE need over 600 audit officers in a single zone to administer a vast number of temples. But it is under-staffed. The newly appointed 30 audit inspectors would not make any visible changes in the system. Apart from the two audit officials, there is another category which is a drain on the exchequer.
“In 1996 the state government had issued a GO pave the way for the creation of new posts of Inspectors. The said GO is silent about their role, power and responsibilities, salary structure, hierarchy. Such inspectors are mostly political appointees in nature and are mainly party cadres. There is no provision for such appointments in HR and CE act “points out Jagannath. He said there a large number of temples under their control of these inspectors, i.e. the posts newly created through 1996 GO. The act ‘per se’ does not specify to give control of temples to these inspectors and as a direct consequence, no audit and maintenance are coming under their control. If an inspector demolishes a temple and fails to reconstruct the same, without the statutory sanctions as mandated by the act, escape the scrutiny of the audit system. There are numerous temples in Salem, Trichy, Vellore and Ramanathapuram Road that were demolished by these inspectors. There have been no audit objections raised in the report by the auditors of the department” he explained.
He said “rampant corruption, red-tapism, bureaucratic inefficiency, hatred towards Hinduism, Hindu gods, non-application of mind, sluggish behaviour, total failure of officials in implementing the rules and regulations all made the collapse of the audit system. The crypto Hindus posted in the department are working against the Hindu dharma, and no action was taken against them when they are exposed”.
Adding insult to injury, the TN government has banned renovation of temples and consecration and various festivals for this year citing lockdown following corona. All places of worships have been closed. Devotees are not allowed to visit. Hindu Munnani and other forums have been urging the government since April to open the temples for darshan. It has been holding various forms of protests, standing on the knees, stand and sit, standing on one foot etc. Temple archakas (priests) are warned of severe action if they open and allow devotees. This has been conveyed to the temple Executive officers. HR and CE commissioner on 10th June hold a meeting with them at his office in Chennai.
As directed by Madras High court, all staff of HR and CE – from Commissioner to lowest grade- took a pledge on 20th May that they are Hindus by birth and continue to profess the religion now, as mandated by law. They might have taken pledge as Hindus but need not be believers of God. There are still who have their faith in other religions. Sangh Parivar is making out a list of such officials.