Reeling under a financial crisis due to ongoing lockdown, authorities of the world's richest temple at Tirumala have decided to auction 23 properties donated by devotees in Tamil Nadu.
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of Sri Venkateswara temple, has formed two committees to sell what it calls unviable and not maintainable properties in Tamil Nadu through public auction.
A resolution to auction the properties was adopted at the TTD Board meeting on February 29 but an order to constitute the committees for auctioning the properties as per their bidding value was issued on April 30. The orders came to light on Saturday.
The properties which include house sites and agricultural land in different districts of Tamil Nadu have a bidding value of over Rs 1.50 crore.
Two teams comprising eight officials were constituted by Estate Officer V Devendra Reddy to conduct the public action of the properties.
Shut for more than two months for devotees due to Covid-19 lockdown, the temple has so far lost revenues of Rs 400 crore as 'hundi' collection or the donations dropped by devotees at the temple is its main source of revenue.
The TTD needs Rs 125 crore to pay salaries to its regular and contract employees besides other costs such as security and maintenance of the temple. With the main source of revenue dried up, it was struggling to pay the salaries and bills for last two months.
TTD chairman YV Subba Reddy, however, recently said there was no fund crunch to pay salaries for May.
He was hopeful of mobilizing resources to pay salaries for June in case the lockdown extends till the next month.
He, however, had ruled out touching the gold or fixed deposits, saying it is a matter related to the sentiments of devotees.
Balaji temple, as the hill shrine is also popularly known, is reported to have nine tonnes of gold reserve and Rs 14,000 crore fixed deposits in various banks.
The temple earns Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 1,200 crore from 'hundi' .
The hill shrine attracts 50,000 to one lakh pilgrims every day. The number on special occasions like the annual Brahmotsavam and festivals goes up to 4-5 lakh.
The devotees make offerings in the form of cash, gold and silver jewellery, property deeds and even demat shares.
For 2020-2021, TTD had presented a Rs 3,310 crore budget with the cash offerings by devotees projected at Rs 1,351 crore.
The temple trust expects Rs 706 crore interest on deposits in nationalised and private banks, Rs 302 crore from the sale of tickets for various forms of worship and Rs 400 crore from 'laddu prasadam'.