Sathya Sai Trust’s V.Srinivasan: Defending A Religious Empire Fallen. A Torn House Divided
Posted by Barry Pittard on July 6, 2011
Unfortunately for Sathya Sai Trust spokesman V. Srinivasan and his (and Sathya Sai Baba’s) already badly tattered credibility, last Sunday, still more treasure was found in secret places in Sai Baba’s private quarters. This time, the joint District Collector and her team searched for and found it. But, in a case of caught-out-yet-again, this lot of treasure DID NOT appear in the Trust’s inventory, which the government of Andhra Pradesh had put the Trust on its Boy Scout’s honor to make.
Did the District Collector and her team obtain their spectacles or magnifying glasses from a manufacturer much superior to any the poor Trustees can manage to find?
Srinivasan’s earlier story was that huge amounts of money which police found being secretly removed by van and bus did not belong to the Trust but to twelve devotee donors.The India Daily reported (Tuesday 21 June 2011):
“According to sources, during investigation, it was found that Pradhan, a retired Air Force official, brought Rs 35.5 lakh out of Yajurveda Mandir, Sai Baba’s personal chamber, and handed it over to Sathya Sai Central Trust members RJ Ratnakar and V Srinivasan at the Shanti Bhavan. The cash was in turn given to Chandrasekhar, driver of Srinivasan, and later, was passed on to Sohan Setty and Harish Nanda.
The trio was caught by the police on Saturday night while transporting the cash to Bangalore. Police are likely to serve notices on Ratnakar and Srinivasan in a day or two, the sources said”.
Srinivasan’s story falls down on at least three counts:
1. The Sai Trust markedly departed from its policy of donation by cheque with the administration’s issue of receipts.
2. Perhaps all the more strange in a (so-called) spiritual organization which should have a tender care for the safety of its workers is the considerable security risk to which Srinivasan and any other accomplices (like the Puttaparthi head of Security) were ready to expose Srinivasan’s driver, Chandrasekhar, and the Shetty brothers.
3. Commonsense and caution, following nation-wide attention on the enormity of the first, and truly vast, treasure cache, should have set in. The risks Srinivasan took can hardly be stated. Who would be so imprudent? What lawyer would ever countenance such folly? Yet Trust spokesmen are often enamoured of stating what depth of experience and talent subsist in its Trustees.
For one passing moment, a statement of Srinivasan sounded faintly like a Puttaparthi spokesman in the ‘good old days’. He told the Indian media:
“I do not see any need for the government to set up a separate mechanism”.
But clearly succumbing to a changed reality, where Puttaparthi is no longer shielded from public accountability, he added that he saw no problem if the government should wish to set up a mechanism of accountability. IF …..! Surely, not ‘if’ – but when. A high level business group CEO, Srinivasan cannot be so simple-minded as believe in such and IF. He gives every evidence of temporizing and trying to play to the naive masses.
But Puttaparthi times have change. Markedly unlike Srinivasan, the then world head of the Sathya Sai Organization in and Trustee, Indulal Shah, was able, in a medieval feudal chieftan-like response, though terrible police executions and other killings had just taken place, to make short work of The Hindu, June 10, 1993:
“When press persons met Mr. Indulal Shah, chief functionary of the Sri Sathya Sai World Trust, he said, ‘the matter is purely internal and we do not wish to have any law enforcement agency investigating into it.’”
The then Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and his Home Minister S.B. Chavan and other powerful forces in Indian politics aided Puttaparthi’s extensive cover up of the police killings in Sathya Sai Baba’s bedroom. We know (via the testimony of V.K.N. Narasimhan, editor of Sanathana Sarathi) that Chavan was in Puttaparthi assisting in the damage control. A former Andhra Pradesh Home Office Secretary, V.P.B. Nair told the BBC of the massive cover up that prevented police, media and judicial investigation. The Anantapur Journalist’s Union protested the suppression.
Unable to take the haughty approach, Srinivasan keeps making difficulties for himself. For example, it was only days ago, that he maintained, absolutely, the Trust very strictly controls donations. That they must be by cheque. And that receipts must be issued. Next thing, apparently temporizing again, when his own agents were caught spiriting away huge sums of money under great secrecy, he said:
“… most transactions are by cheque but why can’t one be by cash? That money belonged to the trust. We had no other intention than to pay samadhi contractors.’’
He also dismissed any notion that cash, gold and gemstones and other valuables are still concealed in the Yajur Mandir. Was the Sai Trust’s own inventory just the tip of the iceberg? the media asked. Srinivasan laughed, replying:
“I do not know why such fanciful statements are being made. We took an inventory and took everything into the accounts of the trust. The inventory was taken in the presence of trustees who are respectable bureaucrats, chartered accountants, legal practitioners and businessmen.’’
It is instructive to look at Srinivasan’s statements over recent days. Two days prior to police questioning him for five hours about the money secretly transported from Puttaparthi by van and by bus (even AFTER all cash and valuable were said by the Trust to have been accounted for), Srinivasan told the Indian Express:
“The money belongs to the Trust”.
He said that there could be no more gold, silver and other valuables in the Yajur Mandir. All along Srinivasan has given out accounts as though they are indisputable facts, only to be falsified by the facts. Like his ‘spiritual master’, in fact, as analytical studies of Sai Baba’s discourses and other documentation clearly show.
In passing, it is interesting that there is no record of Srinivasan saying a thing about any of the many other places in or around Puttaparthi where treasure may, or may not, be hidden – for example, secreted behind walls or in ceilings or in cement tunnels. Such genuine care, accountability, transparency and due diligence are not to be seen in him or this fellow.
Following yesterday’s searches for about a day just yesterday (Sunday), headlines in the Indian media read, for example:
Assets worth Rs77L seized at Sai ashram
See: Yet Another Sai Yajur Mandir Treasure Haul. Stash Not In Recent Enforced Sai Central Trust Inventory.Posted by Barry Pittard on July 3, 2011
Front Page, Wednesday, Jun 29, 2011
|Sathya Sai Central Trust clarifies the money belonged to 12 different people|
PHOTO: R.V.S. PRASAD
Trustee V. Srinivasan (right) of the Sathya Sai Central Trust speaking to the media at Puttaparthi on Tuesday. Member of the council of management Naganand is also seen.
PUTTAPARTHI: The Sathya Sai Central Trust categorically stated here on Tuesday that the cash of Rs.35 lakh seized at the Kodikonda checkpost by police recently did not belong to the Trust but to 12 different people.
Trustees R. J. Ratnakar and V. Srinivasan, who were in the thick of controversy following seizure of the cash, had only facilitated the money being placed before the regal chair of Sathya Sai Baba in Yajur Mandir.
Mr. Srinivasan explained at a crowded press conference in Prashanthi Nilayam that the Trust did not wish to get involved with the finances of the construction of the Mahasamadhi as it was a public charitable trust and that the law did not permit them to undertake religious activity.
He said the Trust had decided not to directly undertake the construction but facilitate the devotees to do so under its supervision to ensure quality and aesthetics. The Trust took this decision as it was flooded with offers from devotees to pay for the Samadhi work. Shankarnarayana Consultancy Company of Bangalore was appointed as project consultant.
Mr. Naganand — member of the council of management of the Sathya Sai Central Trust — said there were no restrictions on people giving donations in cash to a consultancy to be used for the construction of the Mahasamadhi. He added that the said company was no stranger to Puttaparthi and had in fact even donated work worth crores of rupees, even when not asked for, out of devotion to the late Sathya Sai Baba.
Asked if the Trust would be compliant if the government decided to take on a monitoring role over the Trust, Mr. Srinivasan said, “I do not see any need for the government to set up a separate mechanism”, and that if and when such a decision was taken, the Trust would not have a problem.
He said even without a demand note from the Income-Tax Department, they had paid Rs.9.75 crore as tax on the income attached to the inventory of valuables found in the Yajur Mandir.
Sai trustee stands by Samadhi story
HYDERABAD: Breaking his silence for the first time since the seizure of R35 lakh of Sai Baba’s money, Sathya Sai Central Trust member V Srinivasan vehemently denied allegations of wrongdoing and said the amount was meant for a legitimate purpose: building the guru’s samadhi.
In an interview with Express, Srinivasan said, “There is no substance in the allegations being aired. We are not involved in any illegitimate activity. The money came from the devotees. The media is distorting the facts.’’ He laughed off allegations that wealth from the Sai Baba’s estate was being siphoned off. “The truth will come out once I make a statement to the police,’’ he said. Srinivasan is due to give his statement in a couple of days.Pointed out that his driver Chandrasekhar has told the police that it was Srinivasan who had sent him to get the cash from Yajurweda Mandir, the trust member asked, “When the money was meant for a legitimate purpose, where is the problem? Does sending my driver to deliver the money mean that it was being used for illegitimate purposes?’’ Asked if it wasn’t true that all transactions of the trust are normally done by cheques, Srinivasan said, ‘’Yes, most transactions are by cheque but why can’t one be by cash? That money belonged to the trust. We had no other intention than to pay samadhi contractors.’’ Asked if it was true that cash, gold and diamonds are still concealed in the Yajurweda Mandir and that the inventory revealed by the trust was just the tip of the iceberg, Srinivasan laughed and said, “I do not know why such fanciful statements are being made. We took an inventory and took everything into the accounts of the trust.The inventory was taken in the presence of trustees who are respectable bureaucrats, chartered accountants, legal practitioners and businessmen.’’ Asked whether the trustees were preventing government officials from entering the Yajurweda Mandir, Srinivasan said, “What is preventing government officials from entering the mandir now? We have never prevented them and never will.We never said they cannot enter.’’
Excerpt From Public Petition (and introduction)