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Idol Thefts: Get it right, please

It is outrageous that Venu Srinivasan should be implicated in an FIR registered for alleged theft of idols from the Kapaleeswarar temple, Mylapore. In the divisive Tamil society, very few business leaders of eminence bother to take active interest in social and public affairs. Venu is an exception. For years he has been doing great work on issues of social amelioration through the Srinivasan Services Trust (SST).

Look at some of the extensive work done by him at huge cost:

  • The renovation of Nava Tirupathi temples in southern Tamil Nadu. Liberal provisions have been made for the repair, upkeep, and maintenance of these and regular pujas are conducted with enthusiasm and shraddha.
  • Encouraging brilliant pundits and scholars like Velukudi  Krishnan to propagate the tenets of Hinduism. The focus on 108 divya kshetrams of vaishnavites and extensive research of the path of Lord Rama from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka were liberally and quietly funded by Venu.
  • As the chairman of the board of trustees of Srirangam temple, an estimated Rs 25 crore has been spent by his institutions for preserving this global heritage structure.
  • The T.S. Srinivasan Centre for Vocational and Advanced Training (CVAT) pioneered skill development among youth, decades ahead of the nation’s focus on skills. Hundreds of youth graduating through this vocational centre are today employed in lucrative jobs.
  • Over three decades ago as Chairman of CII (SR), Venu set new standards for the dissemination of information on state-of-the-art developments in the engineering industry.
  • Boldly terminating the joint venture agreement with Suzuki Motorcycles, Venu focused on indigenous research and development and succeeded in his company, increasing its market share in two-wheelers. His products enjoy enviable custom in several countries abroad including far-off Argentina.
    In a sector seething with theft of idols, and extensive grabbing of temple lands munificently bequeathed by kings, leaders like Venu are beacons of integrity. Should they be offended by such thoughtless charges?

Over the decades the political leadership had alienated business leaders of Tamil Nadu. Result: barring a few exceptions, like Venu or Karumuttu Kannan or Ramco’s Rama-subramaneya Rajah, most other business leaders have been content to be unsocial. Society and, particularly those at the helm of politics, should handle these endangered species with care and concern. –SV

The theft of idols and the numerous scandals on the various crimes related to temple properties now surfacing have resulted from a flawed system of temple administration. Tamil Nadu abounds in temples and architecture. The Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas and Naickers excelled in constructing hundreds of temples. They liberally endowed these with land and other precious properties. For centuries these have been administered by firm believers.

The Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment that was entrusted with the task of administering these became politicised. We had the spectacle of trustees appointed by political leaders. The DMK, which professed atheism as its credo, had little credentials for administering temples. No wonder, that over the last 50 years, temple administration suffered grievously. There are no records of the jewellery, silver and gold vessels and other movable assets of the hundreds of temples. Many of these have been stolen and find their way to museums abroad. These are all, of course, highly prized treasures with the valuation of some of the idols estimated at crores of rupees.

There have been numerous instances of powerful local dadas encroaching temple lands or paying pittance as rent. Extensive fertile wetlands have been taken over either entirely or paid pittance by way of rentals. There have been little attempts at rectifying these. Curiously the regulation and control are only for Hindu temples. Christians and Muslims, with their minority status, are provided the freedom to maintain the churches and mosques on their own.

The leaders of AIADMK, believers in God, should invite a large IT company like TCS to prepare a detailed list of the properties of temples that abound in Tamil Nadu. The Tata Trust may be approached for investment as part of CSR initiatives.

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