Sai Central Trust:
grab as grab can
Sai Baba's assets are estimated at Rs 5,000
crore, but his coterie is now worried that burgeoning
child abuse charges might dry up the flow of foreign funds, says M Seetha
November 29 - 2000
to an (unofficial) estimate of a senior the Income Tax (I-T) officer, all
donations to the Sathya Sai Central Trust have been given tax exemptions. The
total value of the Sai Baba's assets, movable and immovable, both within the
country and abroad, is Rs 5,000 crore, give or take a bit.
Every year, the Sathya Sai Central Trust is bloated with donations worth
approximately Rs 65 crore. It also has about Rs 130 crore in fixed deposits (FD)
and other term deposits all over the world. The trust has so far raised about Rs
385 crore in the form of loans for some of the Sai Baba's projects.
The principal architects of the trust are now reportedly worried about the
plummeting devotee numbers and even more desultory recruitment rate (see Is
the Sai Baba's empire beginning to disintegrate?). They have
suggested to the Sai Baba that he should travel abroad and hold sessions with
devotees to kill rumours and counter increasingly murky publicity. (The Sai Baba
has been abroad only once, to Uganda).
principal architects of the trust are now reportedly worried about the
plummeting devotee numbers and even more desultory recruitment rate
concerns them most
are the raging and escalating charges of child sex abuse against the Sai
Baba (particularly in scores of Websites on the Internet) and the impact
such an issue will undoubtedly have on the inflow of foreign devotees in
Most trust members, said one of them, are of the view that drastic repairs need
to be taken. "If this goes on, many charity programmes might come to a halt
a few years," he said. "It is better to have a direct
access with devotees, either through a Website or weekly video
According to another ashramite, the educational institutions, hospitals and the
Vedanta meditation centres are in the process of being carved into three
nominally autonomous entities to prevent them from being controlled by any
single trust member (see
Mandiram: fortress of solitude). So far, the machinations have
been nipped in the bud: the Sai Baba's brother Janakiramayya's efforts to claim
a stake in the affairs of the ashram, for instance, have been rebuffed by
bureaucrats, but not very categorically.
An interesting case was that of a former devotee from Vijayawada, who donated a
building to the trust. She
had written in her will that the building was to go to the Sai Baba after her
death. She was 55 years when she wrote the will. The trust authorities waited
for five years, and then wrote to her family asking it to hand over either the
building or its revenue.
The problem was that the devotee was still alive. "When
I tried to take the donation back from the trust, no court or magistrate was
ready to hear the case or give me justice," said the donor. She is on her
she despises the Sai Baba and all he stands for.