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Uma & crore for temple

Hyderabad, Dec. 11: Yesterday was a good day at Tirupati. And not only because the sadhvi — the new chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Uma Bharti — paid a visit.

Donations by pilgrims touched Rs 3.21 crore, which is high even by Tirupati’s standards where the daily average is about Rs 80 lakh.

The total amount did not cause as much surprise, though, as did one packet among officials of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam who were counting the money. This bundle contained Rs 1,25,15,234 — over Rs 1.25 crore.

An assistant executive officer of the temple said the bundle, wrapped in a saffron cloth, was reported by the employees of the Parakamani (coin checking section). The officer said this was the only donation in currency that came in a packet — the other notes were loose.

Bharti visited Tirupati with a retinue of some 18 people to redeem a vow she had made on a trip before the election and tonsured her head.

She went around the town and sat like a common pilgrim at the hall to eat the simple, free meal that is provided by the temple authorities.

“We should do something like this in our temples in Madhya Pradesh,” she said.

Bharti’s media adviser, Atul Jain, said she made a donation of Rs 125. It could not be confirmed if anyone accompanying her gave any money.

Receipts can be obtained from the temple authorities for donations and many do that because these contributions are eligible for income-tax exemption. But against the Rs 1.25 crore that came in the bundle, there was no such request. It is, therefore, not possible for the temple authorities to identify the donor.

Not seeking a receipt is not unusual either. The dominant temple of Balaji receives cash, jewellery and diamonds as donations daily without the donor revealing identity. Donations are dropped in a life-size brass vessel.

The public relations officer of the complex, Ranga Rao, said the average daily collection is around Rs 80 lakh, which at weekends goes up to Rs 1 crore or above.

“Even today’s collection is over Rs 1 crore,” the official said.

It is not unusual for politicians to donate. Andhra Pradesh chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu gave a few lakhs after he survived a Naxalite attack in October. Naidu’s wife Bhuvaneswari gave away all the gold jewellery she was wearing.

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