Now, Srisailam Temple Scam Rocks Andhra; Staff Of Two National Banks Siphon Off Money Collected For Poojas
At least 14 staff of Andhra Bank and six of the State Bank of India are reportedly involved in the fraud that has rocked the State.
The Andhra Pradesh government is caught up in yet another controversy related to temples—this time over siphoning off of money, around Rs 1 crore, from the famous Srisailam Shiva temple in the state’s Kurnool district.
The diversion of the money due to the hill shrine of Sri Brahmaramba Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple at Srisailam came to light after the temple authorities held an internal inquiry on Sunday (24 May) into the temple devasthanam (trust) financial issues.
The inquiry was ordered following complaints of mismatch in the number of tickets sold for various poojas and darshan compared with the revenue generated by the tickets sale.
At least 14 staff of Andhra Bank and six of the State Bank of India (SBI) are reportedly involved in the fraud that has rocked the State.
Atmakur Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Venkata Rao told the that at least Rs 1.42 crore of the temple’s money has been misappropriated by these 20 persons since 2017.
The DSP, who is investigating the case, said that while Andhra Bank staff siphoned off Rs 76 lakh, the SBI staff walked away with Rs 66 lakh.
While the Andhra Bank staff drew their salaries regularly, the SBI staff were not paid regular salaries.
Temple Executive Officer K S Rama Rao said the staff were able to divert the temple’s money for their own use as the devasthanam had outsourced its counters to the banks to help devotees make payments for performing various poojas and stay at its guest houses.
Preliminary enquiries reveal that the staff had manipulated the software to siphon off the temples funds into fake bank accounts they had created.
At least Rs 50,000 of the temple’s money was alleged to have been misappropriated every week by these banks staff.
Investigations reveal that the scam went undetected till now because the devotees, who booked for conducting poojas or staying in guest houses, were not affected.
Rama Rao said the software in the system was manipulated in such a way that some of the devotees’ bookings got erased from the system.
The erasure of the booking data took place only after the pooja was performed or the devotee vacated the rooms in the guest house.
Money collected from the bookings erased by the system did not show up in the temple records and was diverted to other bank accounts.
Rama Rao suspected that the staff could have availed of the help of a computer expert to instal the software to divert the money. He said the temple’s money could have been diverted when the devotees’ turnout was heavy during auspicious days and other occasions.
Andhra Pradesh Endowments Minister Vellampalli Srinivasa Rao directed police to take stringent action against the guilty and recover the siphoned off money. He also ordered a special inquiry to investigate the fraud.
The temple authorities have lodged a complaint with the Srisailam police. Cases of breach of trust (Section 406), breach of trust by banking staff (Section 409), cheating (Section 420) of the Indian Penal Code besides computer-related offences under Section 66 of IT Act.
One of the 12 Jyotirlingas temple
The Sri Brahmaramba Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple, located in the picturesque surroundings of Nallamalai Hills, is the abode of Lord Shiva and Shakthi on the banks of the River Krishna in Kurnool district. It is commonly referred to as Srisailam Temple.
Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy is one of the 12 jyotirlingas in the country and Goddess Bhramaramba Devi is one of the eighteen Mahasakthis. Both are believed to be self-manifested.
The co-existence of the Jyotirlinga and Mahasakthi in one temple complex is the pilgrim town’s unique feature that is rare and only of its kind in the country.
The place has earned a mention in Skanda Purana through the nearby place Chandraguptanagara, which has also been mentioned in some of the celebrated literary works between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries.
The Skanda Purana says that Lord Sri Rama along with Sita Devi visited this place during their banishment and consecrated Sahasra Lingas (One thousand lingas) here.
Temple officials and police have been asked to speed up the inquiry.
The unearthing of scandal comes on the heels of a controversy over the sale of Tirupati Tirumala Temple Board (TTD) properties earlier this week. After a hue and cry was raised over the sale, the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh was forced to stop the sale of the lands that are mostly in Tamil Nadu.
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