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  • ଓଡ଼ିଆରେ ପଢନ୍ତୁ
Sanjeev Kumar Patro

News Highlights

  • Despite the clear rule, the CAG report finds that no annual income and expenditure account has been maintained by the Sri Lingaraj Trust board, despite the income of the temple during the period of 2016-19 had been Rs 5.72 cr and the expenditure during the period at Rs 2.52 cr.

The Odisha Law Department seems not to have taken any lesson from the missing keys of Lord Jagannath's Ratna Bhandhar. The heights of serial mismanagement in another towering temple in Odisha - the temple of Lord Lingaraj - have been unearthed by CAG.

As per the CAG report tabled in the State Assembly, the trust board of Sri Lingaraj Temple didn't maintain the annual income-expenditure accounts of the temple.

Maintaining that this is a clear violation of Section 58 of the Orissa Hindu Religious Endowment (OHRE) Act, the report said, "Section 58 of the OHRE Act envisages that the trustee of every religious institution shall keep regular accounts of all receipts and disbursements. Further, as per Rule 21(2) [m(b)] of OHRE Rules, 1959, Auditor should check the Income and Expenditure statement so prepared."

Despite the clear rule, the CAG report finds that no annual income and expenditure account has been maintained by the Sri Lingaraj Trust board, despite the income of the temple during the period of 2016-19 had been Rs 5.72 cr and the expenditure during the period at Rs 2.52 cr.

The Audit report has observed that the cash book of Sri Lingaraj temple had not been written for 246 days during the test check period of 2019. The report pointed out the following grave lacunas.

  • In 11 RIs, the closing balances in bank accounts were not reflected in the cash books nor were Bank Reconciliation Statements prepared.
  • In none of the sample RIs, were the cash books attested by the competent authority indicating the fact that the correctness of the income/ expenditure reflected in the cash books were not certified/ reliable.
  • Though the board has maintained stock registers of articles, the same was not updated and many articles like vessels, jewels worn by the Deity, idols, etc., had not been included in the list of inventories. The stock including the idols and brass/ copper utensils was never physically verified by the EOs.

Bouncer At Endowment Commissioner

As per the CAG report, it has expressed dismay over the fact the EC had not taken steps for preparation of required accounts despite the fact that Sri Lingaraj temple had Rs 13 lakh grants as an aid for conducting rituals and festivals from the Government during 2016-19.

The CAG report has more bouncers for the Endowment Commissioner (EC).

  • As per Section 15 (1) of the OHRE Act, every religious institution should maintain a register of properties. As per Section 15(2), such register shall be prepared, signed and verified by the trustee or his authorised agent of the religious institution concerned (here Sri Lingaraj Temple) and submitted to the EC through Assistant Commissioner
  • The CAG report revealed that Sri Lingaraj temple has a total landed property measuring nearly 1,524 acres.
  • But the Trust Board has actual possession of 31.6 acres. And 36.37 acres are under encroachment in Bhubaneswar alone.
  • This non-adherence indicates apathy in safeguarding the temple's properties both by the related trust boards as well as the EC.

Encroachment of Lord Lingaraj Property

As per the CAG report, although the temple owns landed properties across the State, it was aware of possession and encroachment related to the city of Bhubaneswar only.

Information on ownership and encroachment of land at other places were not known to the temple administration. The Endowment Officer of Sri Lingaraj Temple intimated Audit that 36.370 acres out of 69.423 acres of land in Bhubaneswar, were under encroachment. Of this, in 23 cases, encroachment involved more than 0.30 acres of land in each case.

The temple administration had 272 cases against the encroachers between 1990 and 2010. The EC had disposed of 222 cases as of October 2019.

  • Of this, the EC forwarded 196 cases to the District Collector, Khurdha for eviction of encroachments.
  • On the remaining 26 disposed of cases, actions to be taken were not on record.
  • Of the 196 cases referred to the Collector, 79 cases related to Bhubaneswar Tahasil only.
  • Of this, possession was recovered in 15 cases and 17 were pending for want of action at the level of District Collectors.
  • In the remaining 47 cases, it was reported (January 2017) that eviction was not possible by demolishing/ evicting dwelling units or shops constructed in the encroached lands due to probable law and order situations which might arise.
  • Land measuring 5.988 acres situated in Gautam Nagar under the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation area was in the name of Sri Lingaraj Mahaprabhu Marfat Trust Board in the Sabik (previous) record1995.
  • The land was settled in the name of a former trustee of the trust board. The market value of the land, as reported by the EO of the temple in November 2019, stood at 62.87 crore.

Mismanagement Galore

Finding out mismanagement in commercial management, the report observed that the rent fixation order issued by the GA Department did not include areas pertaining to Sri Lingaraj Temple.

The BMC, however, fixed rent at Rs 26 per sqft for the areas pertaining to the Lingraj temple. The temple had 60 shops with 10,348.24 sqft. From April 2016 to October 2019, rent per month was Rs 29,568 for the entire area of 10,348.24 sqft.

Thus, rent per sqft worked out to Rs 2.86 per sqft which was far lower than the rent fixed by BMC.

Even then, the temple board did not revise the rent as of October 2019 and sustained revenue loss of Rs 1.03 crore in 43 months from April 2016 to October 2019 had been recorded.

The Bottom Line

Even as the State Government has launched Lingaraj Temple Area Development Project in 2019 to build a modern tourist place, the CAG report is a reality check on the mismanagement in the Lord's internal account.

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