TTD to auction 50 properties, denies allegations against the move

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Board has decided to sell 50 immovable properties in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, worth Rs 23.92 crore through a public auction. This include 23 properties in Tamil Nadu, according to documents.

While the decision has raised controversy, TTD Chairman Y V Subba Reddy said that the decision was taken by the previous Board of Trustees and the Board had in the past sold several such unviable assets through auction.

According to the documents, TTD Board in a resolution resolved to dispose the immovable properties with an upset value or bidding value fixed at a total of Rs 1.5 crore, including house buildings, agricultural land, housing sites among others, which are unviable, through a public auction.

Two teams have been constituted for conducting the public auction, finalising successful bidders, registration of documents in favour of successful bidders and remittance of sale proceds to TTD account.

The decision has raised a storm criticism from various quarters, against the TTD Board and the state government. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Duggabati Purandeswari, co-incharge of Karnataka BJP, condemned the sale of TTD lands, saying  they were donated by devotees out of reverence to Lord Tirumala Venkateswara and TTD was only a custodian of these lands. "It is the prime duty of TTD to secure these lands. To dispose them, under the garb of being unmanageable is to condemned," she said in her social media page.

Responding to the allegations, Reddy, in a press release, on Saturday said that TTD had decided to auction 50 immovable properties in AP and Tamil Nadu which are unviable, not useful and prone to encroachment.  He also said, that according to the rules, the TTD Board was competent to sell, exchange and mortgage the immovable properties, if found beneficial to TTD.

Appealing to devotees not to be carried away by the false reports by a section of media which triggered confusion and hurt the sentiments of the pilgrims, TTD Board's chief said, "The practice of selling immovable, non-maintainable and not useful properties has been in place since 1974. Between 1974-2014, about 129 such immovable properties, which were not useful to TTD activities, were disposed off in public auctions," said the TTD release.

As one piece of land is under dispute, TTD is set to auction off 49 immovable properties, including 17 in Rural AP, 9 in urban AP and 23 in rural TN, in consultation with respective sub-registrar offices with regard to book value and market value of those properties. Apart from this, another piece of land with an area of nearly 1.20 acres at Rishikesh is also included for public auction, as the said land has been encroached upon by unauthorized persons.

"The present TTD Board has approved only the upset rate for public auction in their resolution no. 309, dated 29-02-2020 for disposal of the said 50 immovable properties worth Rs 23.92 crore through public auction. This is only a continuation of the auctioning process commenced by the previous board," he added.

TTD, one of the richest temple trusts in the world, stopped its daily darshans from March 20, 2020, in view of the nation-wide lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the Covid-19 virus. While the decision was initially taken for just 7 days, the board is yet to announce a date to reopen the temple. On March 19, 2020, the day before the darshans were stopped, around 42,084 pilgrims came for darshan, compared to 48,041 pilgrims on March 18.

While reports said that Devasthanam sacked 1,300 sanitary workers during the lockdown period, the TTD management denied the reports and said that the term of the sanitary facilitation contractor ended on April 30 and no tender proceedings were taken up during the coronavirus lockdown in line with court's directions. Once the lockdown period is over, TTD will take up the tendering process. TTD has extended the contract period for one more month on humanitarian grounds amid reports that it sacked workers is without verifying actual facts.

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