Will Lokpal probe divine money?


Kancha Ilaiah

Baba Ramdev is not willing to end his war against black money. He has now asked the government to unearth all black money — cash stashed away within the country as well as all the money parked in secret accounts in banks abroad.

Following Baba Ramdev’s exhortations, his disciples participated in hungerstrikes and agitations against black money. Likewise, Anna Hazare (who, incidentally, is a devotee of a Yadav baba whose temple is located in his own model village, Ralegaon Siddi) and his team are also opposed to black money and corruption and the Gandhian has threatened to go on hungerstrike again. Team Anna wants the Lokpal Bill dictated by them accepted as is and be made the law of the land. None of them, however, has so far said a word on the recent revelations of huge amounts of money and jewellery hidden in the vaults of temples and bedrooms of babas.

The treasure discovered at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple is worth Rs 1 lakh crore. And on June 17, Rs 11.5 crore in cash, 98 kg of gold and 307 kg of silver were found by Trust members when they opened Satya Sai Baba’s chambers at the Puttaparthi ashram after his death. It may be recalled that Baba Ramdev rushed to Puttaparthi to see the body of Satya Sai after he passed away. When Satya Sai was in the hospital, several “sacred” men and ministers from the Centre and states bemoaned that if he dies, ethics in India will also die.

One woman minister of Andhra Pradesh, in fact, camped beside his hospital bed for months. Several civil servants, judges and academics rushed to Puttaparthi. Now we have some idea why all this happened. It will be interesting to see what Baba Ramdev and Team Anna have to say about the officially declared wealth of the ashram, apart from the bundles shipped out of Satya Sai’s Yajur Mandir. Is this wealth black or white?

Will Baba Ramdev make a statement about the currency that was lying in Satya Sai’s bedroom, which was locked up when he was shifted to hospital? How do they define black money? Was the cash, gold and silver found in Yajur Mandir all white? If Mr Hazare, Baba Ramdev and their team members treat such money as black money, why are they silent on the course of action against it? Will the Lokpal Bill, which they are fighting for, also cover spiritual shrines of babas, temples, masjids, churches and gurdwaras? Does Mr Hazare’s draft have a clause that covers the kind of black money that was unearthed in Yajur Mandir?

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leaders A. Raja and K. Kanimozhi and Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi are in jail because they were said to be corrupt. If Satya Sai was alive, and if all the cash, gold and silver were dug up during that time, would he have had to be accountable? What would Kiran Bedi, who claims to be an honest and efficient police officer, have done in this case? Would she have arrested Satya Sai if he was in her jurisdiction?

By his own admission, Baba Ramdev has acquired assets worth `1,100 crore in a span of just 10 years. We do not know the worth of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or Mata Anandamayi, whose spiritual kingdoms are thriving and expanding like wildfire. Shouldn’t Mr Hazare’s Lokpal Bill have a provision for investigating these financial empires?

I am sure no Prime Minister’s or Chief Justice of India’s bedroom (from Jawaharlal Nehru to Dr Manmohan Singh) could possess as much wealth as Satya Sai’s bedroom held.

At least the Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament and the people, and the Chief Justice has to sit on benches and there is an open office system with a registrar around him.
Who are the babas accountable to? In the name of god, spiritual exercises and cultural campaigns, far too much immorality, corruption and accumulation of black money has been taking place in the country. We know how godmen, politicians, bureaucrats, judges and academics make even gods corrupt in India. Early and exclusive darshan of the deity at big temples is available for a price. Part of this money goes into temple hoondis, the rest into the bedrooms of babas.

What does our highly moral civil society have to say about the corrupt culture of spiritual institutions, the latest evidence being the Yajur Mandir? We have seen what happened in Osho’s ashram. American civil society could not tolerate that ashram even for a few months.

Sexual immorality and accumulation of black money has been part of so-called spiritual/religious institutions. If we are against moral and financial corruption, we must focus on the haloed halls too.

* The author is director for the study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/editorial/dc-comment/anna-will-lokpal-probe-divine-money-952

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