In the News:
ISKCON Rebuts MLA's Allegations
Posted August 3, 2009
TNN 29 July 2009, 02:28am IST
BANGALORE: Iskcon president Madhu Pandit Das and vice-president Chanchalapathi Das on Tuesday stoutly denied Congress MLA D K Shivakumar's allegations against the organization's mid-day meal scheme.
Shivakumar alleged that Iskcon was raising foreign funds for its mid-day meal (Akshaya Patra), though the state government was providing rice and cash subsidies for the same. He had also accused it of investing in crores in property development.
In his point-to-point rebuttal, Das argued that the national average cost per meal is Rs 4.68 of which the government subsidy received in cash and grains is Rs 2.64. The Akshaya Patra Foundation makes up for the deficit of Rs 2.04. In South India, it costs Rs 4.71, the government subsidy is Rs 2.57 and the deficit is Rs 2.14.
"We get foreign aid to bear the deficit cost and also for infrastructural purposes. The Natural Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare had already given us the go-ahead to raise public donations for Akshaya Patra,'' said Chanchalapathi.
On the allegation of presenting Indian children in bad light to gain those funds, Iskcon said malnourishment is a national shame. "In India 40% of children are malnourished and 1% die from it. Akshaya Patra is raising funds from abroad to end children hunger. And we have the pre-requisite approvals for it. Also, many NRIs want to contribute to the development in India,'' it added.
On the allegation that it was siphoning foreign aid received to fund its development works, Chanchalapathi vehemently denied it saying: "Not a single rupee raised has been used for anything else besides feeding the children. All donations are audited by global organizations. Also, there are external trustees on the board on Akshaya Patra like T V Mohandas Pai too besides Iskcon monks. We also have the former Chief Justice of India Justice S Rajendra Babu and other government bureaucrats on our advisory board.''
Iskcon said that it was in the process of developing a theme park -- Krishna Lila Park -- in South Bangalore at Rs 350 crores. About 28 acres of land was acquired from the government at Rs 13 crores for this purpose. To fund this project, Iskcon said it had acquired 35 acres for Rs 1 crore per acre, borrowed from the bank, to build residential apartments. The sale of the apartments would be used for the theme park, said Chanchalapathi.
"The India Heritage Foundation is a trust that handles the developmental works. This is so that the temple funds and other trusts do not get mixed up,'' added the vice-president.
Madhu Pandit Das said all the allegations are baseless and that Akshaya Patra is independent of Iskcon. "Besides Akshaya Patra, we have other trusts in this temple. The point made in assembly regarding property development was very hurtful. Why can't a trust raise funds for its own project? We did not go to the government and asked them if we could feed the children. They came to us. Tomorrow if the government asks us to stop, we will. We have nothing to lose. In fact, we not profiteering from it either,'' said the president.
When asked if Iskcon would file any defamation suit against the Congress MLA, Madhu Pandit Das said: "We are peaceful people. Given the opportunity, I would like to call upon the MLA and give him any clarifications that he wishes. I am planning to call him soon and present him the facts.''