(Andhra Pradesh): The death of of the Hindu spiritual
leader, Sathya Sai Baba has left a question mark on the future of
the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust (SSSCT), estimated to have assets
worth Rs.40,000 crore ($9 billion). As Baba, who was chairperson of
the trust, left no successor to the massive empire, his death
might trigger a fight for succession among the trust members which
include his nephew R.J. Ratnakar.
While some eminent devotees of Baba believe that with
personalities like former chief justice of India P.N. Bhagvati on
the board, the trust will carry on in a smooth manner various
charitable work in India and abroad, they also fear the government
might take over control in case of any rift among the members.
"There is no rift among the trust members but I can't say this
about Baba's family members," a retired police officer, who is an
ardent devotee of Baba told IANS on condition of anonymity. He
said the government might take over if such a situation arises.
Ever since Baba was admitted to hospital with multi-organ
dysfunction last month, speculation of differences among trust
members were doing the rounds.
Ratnakar, son of Baba's brother, reportedly wanted cheque power
which is presently with trust member secretary A. Chakravarthi, a
retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, who quit his
job on Baba's advise to join his network.
Though not a member of the trust, Satyajit, Baba's personal
caregiver, is allegedly trying to have a greater say in the
financial matters as Baba had reportedly promised him last year a
key post on the trust.
Reports in a section of vernacular media suggest that suitcases
full of money and gold were taken out of Prashanti Nilayam, the
ashram of Baba. However, some well-known devotees have denied the
"Since all the contributions to the trust come in the form of
cheques and it does not accept cash, there is no scope for
misappropriation of even a single rupee," said former judge of
Andhra Pradesh High Court J. Eswara Prasad.
According to Prasad, Bhagvati recently met Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh to brief him about the activities of the trust and to clear
the air in view of the "rumours".
Sai Baba had formed the trust in 1972 to run the affairs of his
massive spiritual empire. It is under SSSCT that dozens of trusts
in about 160 countries are running educational institutions,
hospitals, drinking water schemes and undertaking various other
Besides Bhagavati, Chakravarthi and Ratnakar, S.V. Giri, a former
central vigilance commissioner, Indulal Shah, a chartered
accountant-turned entrepreneur and Venu Srinivasan of TVS Motors
are members of the trust.
Ratnakar was inducted by Baba last year following the death of his
father Janakiram. Nobody from the children of Baba's two other
brothers and sisters have any say in the trust.
The trust always kept itself away from the media. Not much is
known about the donations it receives from India and abroad, which
are exempt from tax.
Since Baba's devotees include heads of states and governments,
rich businessmen and celebrities. The trust is believed to have
received donations running into billions of rupees from across the
world. The lack of transparency, however, has given rise to
Following the recent allegations, Ratnakar had denied any fund
diversion. He also stated that all the foreign donations are
deposited in a separate bank account as per the norms approved by
the union home ministry under the Foreign Contribution Regulation
The trust runs the Sathya Sai University complex, the 220-bed Sri
Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, where Baba
breathed his last; a world religion museum; a planetarium; a
railway station; a hill-view stadium; a music college; an
administrative building; an airport and an indoor sports stadium
It also runs a specialty hospital in Bangalore, several other
hospitals and dispensaries in the backward district of Anantapur.
It also funded several drinking water projects, including one for
731 villages in Anantapur district, and Krishna water supply to
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)