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Mumbai's Famed Siddhivinayak Temple in Trouble Over Funds

on 2004/2/8 0:47:02 ( 2867 reads )


MUMBAI. INDIA, February 3, 2004: The Maharashtra government has admitted to the Bombay High Court that funds from Mumbai's Siddhivinayak temple are being diverted to a charity run by a politician. In response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the state said that US$190,000 from the temple trust was transferred to Dada Undalkar Smarak Samiti -- a trust run by Minister for Welfare, Rehabilitation and Textiles Vilasrao Patil Undalkar. After the Saibaba Temple at Shirdi, the Siddhivinayak is the second richest in the state. But unlike other temples, whose finances are regulated and controlled by a charity commissioner, the finances of Siddhivinayak are under the purview of the state government. It also decides on the distribution of funds, something the PIL argues is being misused by the politicians for their benefit. The Siddhivinayak Temple trust has now countered those charges in their own affidavit. But the petitioners' claim that at the time when the funds were sanctioned in April, 2000, Undalkar was the Minister for Law and Judiciary -- the department that regulates the distribution of money from the Siddhivinayak trust. "Why did the temple give out $190,000, when the demand was made only for $165,000 according to the affidavit, was the extra $25,000 given because he is a politician?" queries Kewal Semlani, petitioner. The Siddhivinayak temple sets aside about $1.3 million every year for funding welfare activities. While the temple denies all charges of siphoning funds, it does say that it's worried about the money being sent to the two charities -- the Shikshan Prasarak Mandal at Kankavali and the Shivtej Arogya Sewa Sanstha at Khed. And these worries will be addressed when the case comes up for hearing on the February 4, 2004, in Mumbai.

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