Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the country’s richest religious trust, is currently facing a peculiar problem. You will also be shocked to hear about this problem. The trust has foreign exchange reserves of crores of rupees in the form of cash but the trust is unable to deposit this money in the bank. The reason behind this is that the registration of the trust under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) has been suspended for the last three years. This money has come in the form of Hundi collection. But it cannot be deposited in the bank account. TTD is headquartered in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. The trust manages the Tirumala Venkateswara temple and 70 other religious places. According to a report, the trust had also sought help from the government in the matter, but in response, it was served with a penalty notice.
As the registration of the trust has been suspended for the last three years, SBI has banned the deposit of funds in the account. Due to this, the Trust has been holding Rs. 26.86 Crores are deposits, which are falling. The trust recently sent the home ministry complete details of the amount from which country it has received as an offer. The trust has deposits of Rs 11.50 crore in US dollar, Rs 5.93 crore in Malaysian ringgit and Rs 4.06 crore in Singapore dollar. Apart from this, the trust also has deposits in dirhams, pounds, euros, Australian dollars and Canadian dollars.
Last year the trust received Rs 1450 crore as hundi collection. If the figures given by official sources are to be believed then on 5th March, the FCRA department of the Ministry of Home Affairs wrote a letter to the Chief Executive of TTD. In which the trust was informed that its annual return was in wrong format. The department has imposed a penalty of Rs 3.19 crore on the trust. Earlier also a penalty of Rs 1.14 crore was imposed on the trust, which it paid. The penalty was imposed for non-renewal of FCR registration at the end of 2019. According to reports, the trust’s registration has been suspended due to a technical glitch. The trust had argued in a note to the government last year that there was a difference between the Andhra Pradesh rules and the FCRA rules. TTD said the filing of accounts was delayed due to the pandemic. It also referred to Supreme Court orders allowing a period of limitation to petitioners for filing petitions. The problem is that any NGO will have to open an account with SBI as per the changes made in the FCRA Act in 2020. But SBI is not willing to deposit foreign currency as the identity of the offerors cannot be known.
In a letter to the government, the TTD has said that the FCRA Act does not mention the procedure regarding money received in hundi from an unknown person. The ministry has also objected to the use of interest earned on donations received from abroad. In this regard, the Ministry has said that this is not allowed in the FCRA. But it has been contended by TTD that as per Andhra Pradesh law, amount deposited in hundi is part of corpus of TTD. Hence he showed it as fixed deposit in FC return. The trust says it submitted the revised statements at the behest of the government. But the ministry called it false and fined Rs 3.19 crore on the trust.