Posted on: June 30, 2011
SRI SATHYA SAI CENTRAL TRUST PRESS MEET
June 28, 2011, Prasanthi Nilayam
On the morning of June 28, 2011 the members of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust (SSSCT) interacted with the Media in the Indoor Stadium in Prasanthi Nilayam. This was the second such Press Meet after Bhagawan Baba's Maha Samadhi on April 24, 2011.
Their first press meet was held on April 28, 2011 as the members of the SSSCT had felt the need to organise such a Media Interaction session because sadly at the time there were plenty of stories floated by the Media which were imaginative untruths garnished with unsubstantiated and malicious allegations. Unfortunately the scenario remains the same even today.
In the past few weeks the Media has again circulated many a fabricated and totally baseless news items about the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, its members and its activities. To clear all this confusion the Trust addressed the Press for the second time.
Mr. V. Srinivasan, a Trustee of SSSCT, answered the questions, along with Mr. S. S. Naganand, Member, Council of Management, SSSCT. Also present was Prof. Anantharaman, the recently appointed Media Coordinator of the Trust.
Trustee Mr. Srinivasan is a Chennai-based industrialist and has been the past president of CII (Confederation of Indian Industries). He is also the All India President of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation. Mr. Naganand is an eminent Chartered Accountant as well as a practicing lawyer in the Supreme Court of India. Prof. Anantharaman is an honorary professor in the department of Management studies, faculty of Management and Commerce, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. .
Representatives from many regional and national TV channels and newspapers participated in this Press Meet which went on for over two hours from 11 a.m. till past 1 p.m. It began with opening remarks by Mr. V. Srinivasan.
We present below the video (of the first one hour) as well as the edited transcript of this entire session. Please note that since there were journalists from many regional and national media quite a few questions and answers were in Telugu and Hindi. Also, there was repetition of some questions which have been edited out to make the presentation concise and clear.
Opening Remarks of Mr. V. Srinivasan
Sairam to all of you,
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Let me welcome you to this meet. I think you know my colleague Mr. Naganand who is a member of Council of Management of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. To my left is Prof. Anantharaman, who is a very senior faculty member of our University and to whom we have now entrusted the responsibility of media coordination. I will speak a little more about this later. I am V. Srinivasan, Trustee of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. May I sincerely request you not to confuse me with Mr. Venu Srinivasan.
Mr. V. Srinivasan, Trustee, Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust,
making introductory remarks
We are meeting again within a period of two months after Bhagawan's Maha Samadhi. We would like to give an update of all that has happened in this period.
The Board of Trustees Constitute a Board of Management for the Trust
The Board of Trustees of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust has been meeting at frequent intervals to consider many matters concerning the functioning of the institutions set up by Bhagawan Baba. To take care of the day-to-day functioning, a Board of Management of the Trust consisting of three Trustees has also been constituted. Necessary powers for operating the bank accounts have also been finalised with authority for the members of the Board of Management. All financial instruments have to be jointly signed by any two of the three members.
Update of Financial Matters
All financial obligations of the Trust are being met as they arise. Salaries of all staff of the institutions like the university, the hospitals, the schools etc. are paid on the due date. All statutory returns to various Government authorities have been submitted before the due dates. Donations received by the Trust are being credited to the bank accounts and receipts are duly issued to the donors.
University Has New Buildings
The educational institutions have reopened exactly on the due dates and are now functioning. New buildings for the Anantapur and Muddenahalli campuses have been inaugurated. A meeting of the Governing Body of the University has also been held.
New Staff and Equipment for the Hospitals
The hospitals at Puttaparthi and Whitefield are functioning normally. Response to the advertisement released for the recruitment of doctors and consultants was good; interviews have been held and orders have been issued to selected applicants. New equipment both Indian and foreign to replace old equipment as well as new additions are taking place in the hospitals.
Modernisation of Ashram Facilities
Modernisation works in the Canteen within the Ashram are going on. A plan for regular maintenance of the Ashram buildings has been set up to ensure comfortable stay for the visiting devotees. Proposals for installation of modern hi-tech equipment for the well-being of the devotees have been received and are being evaluated.
Yajur Mandir Inventory Duly Accounted For and Tax Paid
The Yajur Mandir housing the private chambers of Bhagawan Baba was opened on June 16 in the presence of the Trustees, members of the Council of Management and independent witnesses Justice A.P. Mishra, former Judge of Supreme Court of India, and Justice Vaidyanath, former Judge of Karnataka High Court. Detailed inventory of cash and valuables was taken and proceedings duly recorded and signed. All cash has been duly deposited in the bank accounts of the Trust. Valuables have been sealed and also deposited with the State Bank of India for safe keeping.
The Board of Trustees met for the first time after taking the inventory on June 27. They have taken the decision to pay necessary income-tax on the value of the inventory though no demand for tax has been received from the Income-Tax Department. Accordingly a sum of Rs.9.75 crores has been paid towards income-tax. The balance if any, will be paid after receipt of the detailed valuation report of the gold, jewellery, silver etc.
The Facts About the 35 Lakhs Seizure Episode
There have been many media reports regarding recent incident where a cash of Rs. 35 lakhs has been seized from a vehicle on the highway. The facts of this matter are as follows:
The Trustees had taken a decision that the Samadhi should be permitted to be erected for Bhagawan Baba within the main Sai Kulwant Hall. Several offers from devotees to bear the entire expenditure for this work have been received. It was therefore decided that the Trust would not directly undertake this work but permit it to be done by devotees under it supervision to ensure quality and aesthetics. Accordingly it issued a letter to Shankar Narayana Pvt. Ltd, Bangalore, who have been doing several works for the Trust in the past in honorary capacity, to act as Project Consultant and supervise this work. This work also would be done by them in honorary capacity.
A group of devotees approached the Trustee Mr. Ratnakar and expressed a desire to humbly contribute towards the project and handed over to him a sum of Rs. 35 lakhs. Since the Trust is not going to directly construct the project, it was decided to call the project consultant and give the funds to him to meet expenses in procuring all materials, services, etc. for the project. The money therefore was handed over to the project consultant in Prasanthi Nilayam in the evening of June 18. The car of the consultant agency was stopped by the Police enroute to Bangalore and the funds have been seized. The matter is under investigation by the Police.
The project consultant had filed a letter with the Police explaining that these funds have been given to them for the Maha Samadhi work and have asked the Police to release these funds to enable them to proceed with the work of Samadhi construction. The donors who gave this money have also filed affidavits in the Court giving their PAN numbers saying that they have given the funds to Mr.Ratnakar for the Maha Samadhi work. The Trust has no connection with these funds. It is to be noted that the funds were not seized from any vehicle belonging to the Trust or to any Trustee. Necessary statements as required by the Police have been duly given by the Trustees Mr. Ratnakar and myself Mr. V. Srinivasan. All information sought by the Police during recording of the statement have been given. The Trust reiterates that there is no loss to it in this matter.
Trust Appoints a Press Information Officer
In the past, the Trust did not meet with the Press regularly. However, we now propose to do so at regular intervals. We are also appointing a Press Information Officer; Prof. Anantharaman has agreed to take up this responsibility to coordinate all our interactions with the media.
Media Interaction Session
(from 11 a.m. till past 1 p.m.)
Media: After Rs. 35 lakhs was seized by the police at the check post, the Trust members made several conflicting statements. On the first day they said that the amount does not belong to them. Subsequently they stated that it belonged to 12 devotees but their names were not disclosed. Later it was said that the amount was given by devotees to L&T (a construction company) in connection with the construction of Maha Samadhi. Why did the statements change everyday? (Mr. Venkata Ranga Reddy from Andhra Jyothi in Telugu)
Mr. V. Srinivasan (V.S.): I request Mr. Naganand to answer this question.
Mr. S. S. Naganand, Member,
Council of Management, Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust
Mr. S.S. Naganand (S.S.N.): To the best of my knowledge there has been no inconsistency. The person from whom the money was seized had mentioned something; but once it was came to the Trustees' knowledge there has been a consistent statement. What Mr. Srinivasan referred to in his opening remarks is the factual position - the money was given to Shankar Narayana Consultancy Services Private Ltd. This company has done a number of projects in the Ashram and in the hospitals; infact they have donated buildings worth several crores of rupees to the Trust. They are doing this holy work (of constructing the Maha Samadhi) completely free of cost, in an honorary capacity. The devotees who gave the money have given statements to that effect very clearly. Therefore there is no inconsistency.
Media: You say the Trust is very transparent; then why was Rs.11 crores found in Yajur Mandir. If the money was given to Baba, why was it not deposited in the bank? (Mr. Srinivasan from NTV Bhakthi Channel in Telugu)
V.S.: Upto the time of Baba's Maha Samadhi, the Trustees had no knowledge of the Rs. 11 crores. Baba is the Founder Trustee, and the fact is Baba had no property of His own. He doesn't even have a bank account in His name; all that He had was His dress. Whatever the devotees gave Him, He used it for public good. We can not know why He acted in a particular way but what we can firmly say is Baba never kept anything for Himself. The amount of good He has done for the people is common knowledge.
The Board of Trustees took charge of these affairs after Bhagawan's Maha Samadhi and then acted as per law. Therefore as soon as the inventory was taken, we deposited it in the State Bank of India; we have the receipt. Now we also feel that for the value of cash and gold recovered we should pay income-tax. That is why even without any demand from Income-tax department, we have paid Rs. 9.75 crores (as advance tax).
Media: When Baba was in the hospital, a Press Release by the Trust signed by Mr. Ratnakar referred to a RBI rule and stated that the Trust accepts contributions only in cheques and demand drafts and not in any other form. Then how jewels worth Rs.11 crores were recovered? Who gave these? (unidentified reporter in Telugu)
V.S.: As I said before, the Board of Trustees took charge only after April 25, 2011 and until then they had no knowledge of this. As soon as we came to know of it, we deposited it in the bank.
The Trust now does not accept cash. We have no knowledge of where that money came from. Nevertheless, the correct position is whatever Bhagawan received He always kept it in the Trust and it was meant for the people; never for His personal use. Baba has not purchased a house or any such thing; He did not lead a 5-star life. In fact He is the embodiment of simplicity. Therefore the money kept by Him was meant only to be used for public good. We are all aware of how He used to feed lakhs of poor people every year; He was not creating money by a wave of His hand! Therefore once the Trustees took charge, this amount has been deposited in the bank.
Media: You just mentioned that the Trust accepted only cheques and the amount taken from Yajur Mandir has been deposited in the bank. Post this scenario, when the devotees contributed for the construction of Baba's Maha Samadhi, why did you not accept that amount by cheque? Who are these devotees giving cash? The Samadhi is being built in the Ashram by the Trust; how can you say that the money does not belong to the Trust? (Ayesha from Star News in Hindi)
V.S.: Here you have to understand an important difference. The construction of the Maha Samadhi is not being undertaken by the Trust. Ours is a public charitable trust and we are not entitled to engage in any religious work. Therefore as per the law, the Trust cannot involve itself in the construction of temples, mosques, etc. A public charitable trust should spend only on the poor and downtrodden. That is why, though Bhagawan is our Lord and infact everything, we wanted to abide by the law and therefore entrusted the construction of Maha Samadhi to an interested devotee.
This money obviously does not belong to the Trust. The devotees who wanted to contribute for this holy task offered the amount in cash to a Trustee who in turn passed it on to the construction agency. Let me therefore reiterate that this money has nothing to do with the Trust whatsoever.
Media: If it is as simple as this then why did you not state this immediately after the cash seizure? Why was this kept a secret for so long? (Ayesha from Star News in Hindi)
V.S.: This incident happened on June 18. Shankar Narayana Consultancy immediately declared that that the money was being sent to them for the construction of Maha Samadhi; there is nothing to hide here.
Media: Do the junior employees working in the Trust like drivers, kitchen staff, etc. take orders from the Trust officials? (Mukesh Sarkar from P7 News in Hindi)
V.S.: Those who come for seva do the work assigned to them.
Media: Why was Rs. 35 lakh sent at night and not during the day to Bangalore? (Mukesh Sarkar from P7 News in Hindi)
V.S.: When money was received in the afternoon a call was made to the construction company and they were asked to come to Puttaparthi from Bangalore. This did not happen during the night. The money was given to him (a construction company employee) at 6.30 p.m. When they were returning after completing their tasks for the day, they had to face this inconvenience. We did not tell them to leave at night or any such thing; the fact is the money had to be handed over to the construction agency as early as possible. That is why we telephoned them to come and the amount was passed on immediately.
Media: We learnt from sources that the vehicle carrying the money did not stop at the check post and it had to be chased and stopped. (Mukesh Sarkar from P7 News in Hindi)
V.S.: These are all lies, untruths.
Media: You declared about the cash found in Yajur Mandir but did not mention about the foreign currency. Secondly, when are you going to reply to the queries posed by the government? (Pramod from Zee News in Hindi)
V.S.: While carrying out the inventory in Yajur Mandir, we did not find any foreign currency.
Media: Didn't find anything?
V.S.: Yes, nothing.
Media: Many devotees told on the camera that they have given in foreign currency to the Ashram.
V.S.: Yes, the Ashram does receive donations in foreign currency and the same gets deposited in the bank. But in Yajur Mandir there was no foreign currency.
Now coming to your second question. Till now there is no communication from the Government seeking any details. Even I am hearing reports that the request is likely to come. If there is any such requirement from the Government, we have absolutely no problem in providing the required details whatever they may be, be it submission of reports or balance sheets, or anything else. We shall certainly do this; there is no question about it at all.
Media: We understand from few quarters consisting of Ministers and Members of Parliament that there is a demand for the Government to take over the Trust. Are you mentally prepared for this? (unidentified reporter in Hindi)
V.S.: If that is the decision of the Government, what can we do?
Media: Would you oppose?
V.S.: From our side, all I can say is we will discharge our responsibilities concerning the Trust correctly. Beyond this, I cannot comment on what decision the Government would like to take.
Media: The Andhra Pradesh Government has reportedly asked for a detailed report on the Trust's activities. Are you ready to provide that? Would you be ready for a monitoring role by the State Government? There have been suggestions that the Trust should be run on the lines of the Tirupati temple. What do you say to this? (Maya Sharma from NDTV)
V.S.: To answer your first question, if there is any enquiry or request from the Government to submit a report, we will certainly furnish it; we have absolutely no problem with this. Bhagawan Baba's directions to us have always been to act as per the law; therefore any request from the Government will be promptly attended to. Regarding the second issue, if the Government wants to monitor us, we are open to it.
Regarding the last question as to if this Trust should be run on the lines of the Tirupati temple, let me inform you that this is not a religious trust. The Sri Sathya Sai Institutions are not religious institutions; they are spiritual and service institutions. On the contrary, the Tirupati Devasthanam is a religious institution.
It is not for me to comment on Government policies and decisions; they will decide on the best course of action. As far as we are concerned, we don't feel that there is any such necessity; we are quite capable of managing the affairs of the institutions.
Also I would like to add here that Bhagawan Baba has set up adequate corpus funds for the university, hospitals, and all other institutions, and all of these are invested as fixed deposits with nationalised banks. Money has also been invested in government bonds. Today the income from these investments is quite sufficient to take care of our expenditure be it paying the salaries, or buying medical consumables, or submitting electricity charges and so on.
Many people say: “Now that Baba is no more, donations will cease and the Trust will not be able to run the hospitals and the university.” I want to assure everybody that Bhagawan in His foresight and vision has made adequate provision for running these institutions. Our job really is not to look for funds but to prudently and efficiently manage these institutions. Therefore the answer to your final question is I do not see any real need for the Government to set up a separate mechanism for running these institutions. However, this is not an adverse comment on the Government; the Government is supreme and they can take any decision they want.
My brother, Mr. Naganand wants to say something.
S.S.N.: I want to add that in addition to the monetary provision that is been made, Baba has also set up an institutional framework. In all our institutions, when Baba was signing the cheques and operating the bank accounts, He was the sole signatory. But after Baba has left, there is a system in force where nobody signs a cheque in his sole capacity; there is always a joint signatory.
The Trust has a financial controller and all the proposals go through different levels just like in a big corporate setup. When we receive a bill it is first checked and verified by independent agencies. Then, it goes to the finance department where it is scrutinised carefully; only then is the bill placed for payment. Before any item is procured, we always look at the budgetary provision.
Now our hospitals are buying consumables and equipment at far lower prices than any other hospital in the country. This is because all the suppliers know that our hospitals provide completely free treatment. We have received discounts in cases where we have not even asked for it. For instance, recently we bought a vehicle. When the management of that Tata company came to know about this from their dealer, they refunded the entire amount by cheque. We did not even send a letter to them asking for any such relaxation in price. This is how the society is looking at us.
We have proper systems in place everywhere. The hospital has an excellent purchase system. All the purchases are centralised at Prasanthi Nilayam. There are two very senior persons who have donated their entire life's savings to Swami's Trust and are now working in that organisation. Therefore everything is being done transparently. The system is there; there are competent personnel at different levels and the institutions are running in accordance with the guidelines. We are following corporate governance norms absolutely. There really is no need for apprehension of any kind.
V.S.: May I also add that in the folder which is given to you, there are lists of all the activities of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust as well as the Sri Sathya Sai Organisations. You will notice that the work that is being done by the Sri Sathya Sai Organisations all over India, in some respects, exceeds what is being done by the Trust. All of this work which is being done in so many villages, catering especially to the poor, is voluntary. This Organisation is not under the legal control of Central Trust. All the volunteers who do free service in Prasanthi Nilayam whether in the ashram, hospitals or elsewhere come from the Sri Sathya Sai Organisations. Therefore this model is unique and very unlike some of the institutions mentioned today which have paid employees.
And if for some reason the Trust is not in the same wavelength as the Organisation, I don't know what they will do to get all the volunteers to do the different kinds of free services going on. Also as you know lakhs of people are receiving free treatment. Today the poor who are sick whether they come from Nepal or Jharkhand or Orissa or Andhra Pradesh or Tamilnadu or anywhere else; if they have a heart disease or need a heart valve replacement, since their economic condition is so bad that their the only option is death. It is only Bhagawan Baba's hospital which makes it possible for them to get another life. And this is being done here for all irrespective of religion, colour, economic status, region, race and so on. So the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust alongwith the Sri Sathya Sai Organisations are today serving humanity all over India. The Organisation assists in the running of 99 schools - 50000 students are being trained and since many of the teachers are devotees of Baba they are not asking for salaries; they offer their services free of charge to these schools. This is because they are inspired and motivated by Bhagawan Baba.
Similar activities are going on currently in 125 countries. Devotees of Baba are serving the needy in Africa, Mongolia, Columbia, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and so on.
Media: When was the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust registered? There are reports that there are differences of opinion between the members of the Trust. Is that the reason why most of them are not present for this Meet? (Nagendra Reddy from Zee 24 hours in Telugu)
S.S.N.: The Trust was formed in 1972. For your information all the Trustees were present for the meeting held last evening. Mr. Ratnakar already interacted extensively with the Press yesterday. Mr. Indulal Shah and Justice Bhagwathi are very much here in Prasanthi Nilayam; they were there even on the last occasion. There are no differences of opinion between the Trustees or between the members of the Council of Management.
Mr. Srinivasan is the All India President of the Sri Sathya Sai Organisations. Yesterday he was questioned by the police and that lead to a lot of media speculation. Therefore we considered it appropriate that we should request Mr. Srinivasan to be here today and take your questions. Merely because two of us are here does not mean that all the others are against us! The relationship between the members of the Trust is very harmonious. We have informed debates, discussions and then take decisions in the interests of the institution. Even yesterday there was not a single point in the meeting where any member said, “No, I don’t agree with this,” or “Do not do this”. All the decisions were taken unanimously.
V.S.: Also I want to inform you that we are now setting up a procedure for regular meetings with the Press. So it may not be possible for all Trustees to be present at all such meetings; kindly understand this. Someone is in Delhi, the other in Mumbai, and so on. Some are of course residents in Prasanthi Nilayam; however I am not one but I do spend most of my time in Puttaparthi. I have given up most of my other assignments. Physically I am here almost 60 percent of my time. Mr. Naganand is a very busy lawyer and Chartered Accountant, but he is also devoting so much time. Therefore in the future it might not be possible for all of us to be present for every meeting but that does not mean that there is difference of opinion among us. As per Bhagawan's directions whether it is a meeting of Central Trust members or of a Sai Centre anywhere, all decisions are arrived at by consensus after proper discussion.
Media: The University receives grants from the UGC (University Grants Commission), then why are retired lecturers paid only Rs. 8000 or Rs. 9000 as pension. Similarly why are the salaries in the hospital very less compared to hospitals outside.
Finally, Mr. Srinivasan, when there was an allegation against you, why did you not resign? (Akbar from ABN Andhra Jyothi in Telugu)
V.S.: Firstly, we do not take any grants from the UGC for paying salaries. The UGC provides us grants only for specific projects such as research projects, library projects and so on. We have never asked the UGC to help us provide salaries. But we ought to give remuneration in accordance with the UGC laws in their respective pay scales and we are doing the same. The retired professors and lecturers from the University tell us that they do not require that much money; they want only a minimum amount as honorarium. We do not force them to take a particular amount as salary; it is not as if we give them a receipt of Rs. 10000 but pay them only Rs. 2000. Such things may happen elsewhere but never here.
Now coming to the second question, in the matter of paying salaries in the hospital we do not have to follow the norms of any regulatory authority like the UGC. Our hospitals serve the poor. When people join this hospital we openly ask them if they have an attitude to serve; this place is fit only for such people. If they feel that they deserve Rs. 10 lakhs which is what they would have received in say Apollo Hospital (a private super speciality hospital in India), here we cannot oblige them in that manner because unlike other hospitals we do not charge our patients. All treatment is offered absolutely free.
Nevertheless, we are now revising the salaries and we did inform this to the new professionals who had applied to our hospital; they may join if they like our proposal. Another point to note is that in Puttaparthi, the cost of living is very low. Education for the children is free. The house rent for the hospital quarters is minimum. The hospital takes care of their medical costs if any completely. Therefore, it is a different scenario here and we do not compel anyone to serve here.
Lastly, you asked why I haven’t resigned. Let me tell you it is very easy to give a resignation. In fact, it is a very tempting thing to do. I can just drop it and go, and engage myself in something else. But Bhagawan Baba has appointed me as a Trustee. For me it is a test, and if I run away out of fear I would be cheating Baba. Therefore even if people say I have lost my reputation I do not pay too much attention to it.
If such a thing would have happened in my company, I would have surely resigned. But this is the temple of Bhagawan. Baba chose us and gave this responsibility; I cannot shy away from it. Infact, I have thought about it a lot. I stood before the picture of Bhagawan and prayed to Him for guidance. The answer I got was - running away is not the correct thing to do. Therefore we need to stay together and discharge our responsibilies until our bodies permit us. We have to work; we are karmacharies, simple workers not elite individuals.
Media: One of the primary reasons why the Government of Andhra Pradesh has asked for a report on finances of the Trust is that there are several allegations of financial irregularities. Also there is a lot of speculation about how much the Trust is worth, some say rupees 40,000 crores, others 100000 crores and so on. Now, is there any move by the Trust to make the details of its finances public so as to dispel all these rumours and allegations? This has become more important ever since Rs. 35 lakhs was seized. (Reporter from CNN-IBN)
S.S.N.: Whatever the law requires we have disclosed - we have filed Income Tax returns; submitted the required returns to the Government of Andhra Pradesh; and with the Government of India, we have filed the necessary reports pertaining to the Foreign Contributions Act. All of this is available in the public realm. But the man on the street doesn’t know and the Press and the Media have reported so many things. That is why a lot of people are curious.
Therefore the Trustees are now seriously considering that in addition to all the statutory compliances which we will continue to do, we will also publish an annual report of our activities which broadly gives the financial transactions and activities of the Trust. Whether this should be done only for the Central Trust or also for all the allied institutions is something which has to be discussed. So I am sure you will see a different approach in the days to come.
V.S.: We will bring out the first report this November.
S.S.N.: Regarding how much the Trust is worth, I did answer this question in the previous Press Meet. Let me ask you this: How do I evaluate 60 acres of land in the heart of Whitefield (Bangalore); property in Bangalore is selling currently at rupees 15000/square foot. Do you want me to multiply 60 acres by square feet with the commercial rate? In fact this is irrelevant because the property given to us is for running a hospital and it is a free hospital where we are spending 50 crores every year. In a situation like this if you ask me the value, all I can say is we have not evaluated it. There are properties all over the country which run many institutions. For example in Ananthapur where we have a college the Trust owns 150 acres of land. This is next to the highway and was given by the Government and currently it is being used for the stated purpose. Therefore we are not able to put a ballpark figure about the worth of the Trust.
Regarding the other question, let me put this absolutely straight - there is no financial irregularity of any kind. Apart from this 35 lakhs which has been blown completely out of proportion there is not a single allegation. The newspapers reported that they found Rs. 5-10 crores of cash and the Press placed it on the front page. When and where did this 5-10 crores episode occur? Which bus was it seized from?
(At this moment, there was absolute silence in the hall)
Here is my humble prayer: Please be objective. Please don’t condemn us. Please don’t print things which are incorrect and then fail to retract when the truth is pointed out. You have a very important responsibility. I appear in many many cases for the Press. Recently I appeared in contempt proceedings where we defended the right of the Press saying this is our job, our duty and the court accepted that argument. But this is coupled with a responsibility. Therefore my sincere prayer is please examine the news you receive and if you have made a mistake own it up.
Can you publish today to say that there was no seizure of 5-10 crores cash? And you ask me about financial impropriety!
You are talking about this meagre 35 lakhs, I don’t know how many crores of rupees we spend every month for the different service initiatives. Therefore, the question about financial irregularity is completely misplaced. I deny it entirely. There is no financial impropriety.
Media: Puttaparthi now is on the headlines for wrong reasons. Will all the activities of the Trust continue? Who are going to be the future members of the Trust? When and how are the students going to be involved in the affairs of the Trust? The current members of the Trust are of high calibre, will it be the same for the future members of the Trust? (Rangareddy from unidentified media channel)
V.S.: Firstly as I have already stated Bhagawan has made enough provision for us to continue all the institutions. We only have to manage it properly. We are not worried about the next month’s salary, electricity bill or anything like that. Therefore all activities whether in Puttaparthi, Bangalore or elsewhere will continue without any disruption.
Regarding future Trustees, we definitely want to have people on whom Bhagawan has showered much love and affection; they have to be gradually given more positions of responsibility. We want to ensure that just as the current Trustees have been chosen by Bhagawan, the people who are going to be the future Trustees are of a calibre which Bhagawan would have approved. This is going to be our main guideline for the selection of Trustees.
We certainly want to give more role to the students. We are now giving them individual projects. For example, the assignment of preparing the annual report of the Trust has been entrusted to a Task Force consisting of mainly alumni and students of the university. Prof. Anantharaman is aware of this.
Similarly we are also forming Task Forces to execute many initiatives that are being taken to make life more convenient in the hospital and in the ashram which includes installation of high-tech equipment. The alumni are looking at quotations and selecting the equipment; they will be making a presentation to the Board of Management to enable the Trust to take decisions. Therefore I can assure you that in the future there definitely will be more role for the students.
Media: We learnt that the funds of the Trust are invested in Fixed Deposits. How much has been deposited and where? Secondly is it true that Dr. Safaya is resigning from his post as the director of the hospital? (Pullaiah from Vartha in Telugu)
V.S.: Let me answer your second question first. Dr. Safaya is now 80 years old and has not been keeping good health; still he continues to serve, he has not resigned as yet.
Infact even when Bhagawan was there he was praying to Him to relieve him from the responsibility. He has now served for so many years and he continues to be a devotee of Baba. Therefore we now want to make proper arrangements with his approval and set in place a succession plan so that after him there is a competent person to head the hospital. I will ask Mr. Naganand to answer your first question.
S.S.N.: Just a word about Dr. Safaya. Few months before Swami went into hospital, one day we were with Swami and Dr. Safaya prayed, “Swami, please give me leave from now on.” Swami looked at him and said (in Hindi), “Tum kidhar jatha hain mujhe chodke? (Where will you go leaving Me?)” Immediately Dr. Safaya’s eyes became moist and he said, “I don’t want to leave You and go, but my physical condition is such that I want some rest.” Therefore Dr. Safaya is fully committed to Bhagawan but if his health doesn’t permit him to continue, we cannot help it; we will have to find someone else.
Now on the other question about deposits, it is very difficult for me to tell you off the cuff about the total number of deposits, the banks in which they are invested, and so on. However as Mr. Srinivasan mentioned we have an Investment Team comprising of Swami’s former students who are working in the Finance Department under a Finance Controller. They constantly keep an eye on various bank deposits and the prevailing rates of interest, renew these deposits whenever needed, and so on. So, at this moment I cannot give you details to the last rupee about our investments. However as Mr. Srinivasan pointed out we are going to publish an annual report. In any case, this information is already available in our balance sheet which is filed with every statutory authority. As mentioned earlier all deposits are made only in nationalised banks; we have not invested in any private bank.
- Radio Sai team
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