Thanks to the “financial irregularity and impropriety… that pervades the whole system”, the Kalighat temple today “presents a very sordid state of affairs”, says a report placed before Calcutta High Court.
The report, penned by P.S. Datta, South 24-Parganas district judge and ex-officio chairman of the Kalighat Temple Committee, levels serious corruption charges against sebaits and members of the committee, and expresses his helplessness.
In response to an order passed by a division bench presided over by Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar, the temple committee chairman observed: “I cannot but be sorry to submit that the Kalighat temple presents a very sordid state of affairs.”
The district judge blamed the “malady” of financial irregularity and impropriety for the mess at the temple.
According to the orders of Calcutta High Court and the Supreme Court, the Kalighat Temple Committee is formed with five elected members from among 840 sebaits. Six members and the president are nominated by the district judge of South 24-Parganas, who is the ex-officio chairman.
A senior advocate of Alipore court, Ajoy Kumar Mitra, was nominated president of the committee on April 16, 2005.
“Mitra, with whom I had a meeting on March 30, 2006, told me that from official records, it appears that a sum of Rs 30 lakh was found due from the sebaits or paladars, who did not deposit the declared share of the offerings they had collected,” reported Datta.
The report stated that the paladars were selling their pala — the right to conduct pujas on a given day — to “outsiders”. These benami sebaits would then collect the cash and jewellery that accrued during the puja. “They do not deposit the offerings and jewellery with the Kalighat Temple Committee,” the chairman alleged. “… the ornaments are not deposited or a very negligent amount of it is deposited with the office and the rest is taken away by benami sebaits.”
To add to the money mess, the keys to the vaults in which the expensive ornaments of the goddess are kept have been missing for the past 10 years, the report stated, adding that allegations of the “the extortion, exploitation and torture upon devotees” by pandas were “largely true”.