One glaring instance of false publicity
Following Sathya Sai Baba’s example again, the Sathya Sai Organization does not correct wrong information circulated about it by itself or other that would seem to put it in a good light, nor does it ever present any negative news about projects that failed or were flawed. All is presented as being divine perfection itself! Facts about itself, some of its projects and events that take place are constantly misrepresented by the Organisation, while all information is clinically censored to cover-up all ills. I have received testimony for all this from V.K. Narasimhan, a one-time investigative journalist of great experience, who was highly percipient and frank in correcting some of my mistaken impressions and opinions of how the organisation is run and what has been done by it.
Nonexistent villages project publicised:
One example of long-uncorrected publicity is about Sai Baba’s organisation having adopted 6000 villages (some quote it as 60,000 villages mentioned – perhaps only yet another unhappy Indian misprint?). In response to previous calls for village regeneration from Sai Baba, the project was instigated by Indulal Shah for the 60th birthday.
No one I contacted in the SSO had any information on the project beyond what is in the 1985 publication from the Sathya Sai Baba Publications Trust bookshop, The Beacon – a book about Sai Baba and his doings consisting in brief texts with photos. About 1 1/2 pages of text make up the section entitled “All India Exhibition – Depicting Seva Activities in 4,200 Adopted Villages In Different States of India”. It shows the model village built for this exhibition at Prashanthi Nilayam. One picture is of Shah taking Baba around it. It was inaugurated in Nov. 1984 by S.B. Chavan, the Home Minister later behind the quashing of murder investigations at Prashanthi Nilayam in 1993.
“The programme planners had decided to adopt 6,000 villages, leaving the choice to the state units. They had all been cautioned earlier by Sri Baba what ‘adoption’ meant. The villages are to be regarded as near and dear as the child you adopt.”The text also claims:”Nearly 5000 of the targeted 6000 villages have been brought under the welfare plan already. The rest are to be covered within the time set for them….”
This project would require a large staff to be at all effective or develop – even as a shoestring affair, but no such staff has ever been seen or heard of. Therefore I asked V.K. Narasimhan about this. He told me that the project was “a washout and was dropped within the first year of its inception in 1985. The main event had been an invitation via the SSO to send persons to visit Prashanti Nilayam and hear Baba give instructions on village improvement. At least several hundred persons came as village representatives from all around India, to whom the ashram offered free transport, free meals, Sai ‘darshans’ and other benefits. Laudable as this attempt to help India’s poverty-stricken and declining villages was, the activities dwindled rapidly down – after the small bonanza - to a handful of individuals here and there, as V.K. Narasimhan informed me and as the least investigative digging will bear out!
The project is even now sometimes referred to in various Sathya Sai Book Trust publications and brochures as if it were continuing , since its demise has evidently been kept secret. Village uplift has continued on a much smaller scale locally since then, mainly by occasional Seva Dal or student village help projects, mainly within Sathya Sai Taluk close to Prashanthi Nilayam.