By being very generous in granting funds to Hindu religious institutions, the first BJP government in the south seems to have brazenly violated government guidelines regulating grants to religious institutions.
In the last six years, the three BJP chief ministers doled out around Rs 400 crore to religious institutions for development works and other activities within and outside Karnataka.
For 2013-14, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar allocated Rs 132.5 crore, surpassing those made by former chief ministers D V Sadananda Gowda and B S Yeddyurappa.
In most cases, the donations violated government guidelines issued in September 2010 that put a cap of Rs 10 lakh, Rs 25 lakh and Rs 50 lakh as the maximum amount that could be sanctioned to Muzrai temples, private temples and religious institutions respectively.
The Lingayat community seems to have got the lion’s share of the government’s donations (Rs 157 crore aggregating to around 40 per cent of the total funds allotted). In certain cases, the allocated funds exceed ten times the permissible amount. The CAG report that was released recently indicated that just during 2010-11, the government had released excess funds of Rs 50.86 crore to eight Muzrai temples, 28 private temples and 23 mutts.
Though the government clarified that grants were released in relaxation of guidelines with the approval of the Minister of Muzrai and the Chief Minister, CAG found the explanation unsatisfactory as the relaxation was not applicable for private temples and mutts.
CAG also noted violation in the release of funds. Though funds should have been released in two instalments (second instalment to be released only after receiving the utilisation certificates for the first instalment), the government had released funds to 51 temples and mutts in one instalment, noted the CAG report.
Minister for Muzrai Kota Srinivas Poojary claimed that he is not aware of the notification. “Though there are provisions regulating the powers of the Muzrai Department Commissioner in allocating funds to religious institutions, the Chief Minister does not have a limit. Most of these funds are allocated in the budget by the CMs.”
Some prominent religious institutions which were granted excess funds include, Parkala Mutt in Mysore, Siddarudhaswamy Mutt in Hubli, Lingakya Shivalinga Mahaswamy Mutt in Haveri, Ramakrishna Ashram in Shimoga, Adichunchagiri Mutt in Mandya, Renuka Yellama Devastana in Udupi, Someshwara Swamy Devastana in Bangalore, Hutchharaya Swamy Devastana in Shikaripura and Mallikarjuna Swamy Devastanam in Shimoga.
Many of these institutions do not adhere to the Right to Information Act and fail to provide details of the funds utilised. In 2012, Express had reported violation of rules for denying such information under RTI.