This is a case of some cheats in Tirupati making capital out of the devotion of people with deep pockets.
A vigilance enquiry has unearthed a R50 crore swindle at the body that runs the Tirupati temple, leading to the speculation that some people may be sacked from the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthnam (TTD).
The wrongdoing relates to the sale of arjitha seva (paid rituals) tickets at the temple. The extent of people's faith in the rituals is such they are prepared to pay R5 lakh to get a ticket to a ceremony for which they are supposed to pay R1,000 in the normal course.
For the past six years, some people have been booking tickets for paid rituals in advance and selling them to highest bidder at a far higher price. The enquiry team came across instances where Kalyanotsavam tickets (tickets for benediction) with a face value of R1,000 was sold for R3-5 lakh and a ticket for the Melchat Vastram Seva (the clothes meant for Lord Venkateshwara), costing R12,500, was sold at R8-10 lakh. In this way, the unfair mark-up extracted totalled about R50 crore. Vigilance and Enforcement Department Director General V. Dinesh Reddy, in his report submitted to Chief Minister K. Rosaiah on Monday, indicted 55 persons including three TTD board members, six deputy executive officers, two bank employees, and two TV journalists.
The enquiry found that some seva tickets like Melchat Vastram were booked for the next 90 years — till the year 2100. One senior Congress leader had reportedly booked this seva ticket till 2060.
The rituals are for the blessings of the Lord or to atone for mistakes. This is close to the practice of simony, which was widely prevalent in medieval Europe and was a factor in the Reformation movement, which gave birth to Protestantism.
"The chief minister will take a decision on the report soon. Undoubtedly a few heads will roll," said an officer.