God’s lands being stolen
source: Deccan Chronicle, November 21, 2008
Hyderabad, Nov. 21: Thousands of acres of temple lands have been encroached in the state. Because of this, many temples are in penury and don’t have adequate funds though they own land worth crores of rupees. None of the temples have proper land records and this has made it easier for politicians and influential persons to encroach upon them.
The Andhra Pradesh Temple Lands Protection Committee said that over one lakh acres of land had been grabbed by locals, political leaders and other land grabbers. Many temples will be able to find funds for renovation only if the lands are given back to them. "However, the state government is not keen on the protection of temple lands," said Mr N.V.S.S. Prabhakar, convenor of the committee. "Amenities can be provided to pilgrims only when the properties and funds of temples are maintained with care."
However, the endowments department said it had been giving top priority to the protection of temple lands by creating three special tribunals. The department is verifying all the records. "At present, the department controls 4.19 lakh acres of temple lands," said Mr Sundara Kumar, the endowments commissioner. "We are planning to purchase agricultural lands while disposing of commercial lands. This will give the temples more immovable properties and revenue generation will also become easy."
Mr K.V.S.R.N. Acharyulu, the secretary of the Archaka and Employees Welfare Trust, said that offerings of devotees were the only source of funds for small temples at present. "We have asked the government to focus on generating more revenue through non performing assets," he said. "It will also help archakas get a fixed income."