Funds can be used for upkeep & propagation of Hindu religion and allied institutions

: The Kerala government bid to secure a temporary breather to the financial crisis by sourcing funds from the devaswom boards and the welfare fund boards for various sections to the treasury is reported to have got bogged down in legal hassles.

Official sources told The Hindu here that the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions (TCHRI) Act, which governs the devaswom Boards has provisions that deter the diversion of its funds for public purposes.

The funds at the disposal of the boards can be utilised only for the upkeep and propagation of Hindu religion and allied institutions. It cannot be utilised for other purposes.

The Act specifically states devaswoms are independent bodies and the government does not reserve the authority to intervene in their administration.      

Bank deposits worth Rs. 170 crore

For instance, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has bank deposits of around Rs.170 crore. This is deposited to meet the salary and pension of staff and retirees, execution of civil works and other commitments. In addition, the TDB gets annual grant of about Rs.76 crore. There are no provisions for transferring the deposit or the grants from the bank to the treasury for weathering the government’s crisis. Thus it has become a closed option, sources said.

Opposition

The 14 welfare fund boards under the Labour Department as well as those under other Ministries are also opposed to depositing their funds in the treasury.

Minister for Labour Shibu Baby John had expressed his dissent about transferring the funds.

The funds comprise only the contribution of the subscribers and have to be returned to meet their various needs, like pension and other benefits from time to time. The disbursal cannot be delayed on any count.

Authorities’s apprehension

Authorities of the boards are reported to have apprehension about depositing the funds in the treasury. In the event of a financial crisis, if the government imposes restrictions on releasing payments, it is feared to impede the functioning of the boards, sources said.

Even while exploring such options, the government has not yet thought of issuing a circular directing the employees to deposit their salary in the treasury.

A directive to route the salary to two nationalised banks is being cited as one of the main reason for the crisis.

Repealing the directive would have helped to ease the crisis, the sources said.      

Keywords: Devaswom funds

More In: Kerala | National