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Tar spreads to Kali temple

Calcutta, Dec. 10: The winter of 2004 is a bad time for temples.

As the seer of Kanchi spends his days in custody, the famous Kali temple at Kalighat finds itself at the receiving end of allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

In a petition filed in Calcutta High Court today, a sebait (like a trustee) of the temple also accused the management of misappropriation of funds.

The petitioner, Ashok Haldar, alleged that 'the apex court of the country had framed guidelines for worship at the temple, which is being violated grossly by the management'.

Haldar, one of 600 sebaits, sought the court's intervention in the running of the over 300-year-old temple so that the act of worship could be conducted in an orderly manner for the sake of pilgrims. A lakh worshippers visit the temple daily, on auspicious days, the number soars to 1.5-2 lakh.

'Calcutta High Court had chalked out a scheme for worshipping goddess Kali of Kalighat in 1957 and the Supreme Court in the same year had modified the scheme and had set up a committee headed by the district magistrate, 24-Parganas, to maintain the norms and rituals of worship. But the present management does not bother to follow the guidelines and is running the temple in an autocratic manner,' the petitioner said.

Haldar, a descendant of Chunilal Haldar, who was the original holder of the estate of the temple, said under Supreme Court rules, the privilege of worship is granted to members of the temple committee by turns.

'Some members of the committee are selling their turns to others and making large sums of money,' he said.

Turn of worship gives a member a half-share of the money and other income collected at the temple during the period, making it a lucrative business. On a weekday's income of Rs 100,000 of the temple, the earning will be at least Rs 50,000 for the person holding the turn.

'The daily rituals at the temple are also not being observed. There is no proper accounting of the daily collections of the cash offerings,' the petitioner said.

Many of these allegations are not new, but this is the first time someone has gone to court with them.

Haldar's counsel Pradip Roy said: 'To move a case relating to a temple like Kalighat is a risky job. That is why I visited the temple several times before filing the petition.'

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