Corruption endemic under Sathya Sai Baba’s leadership
Posted by robertpriddy on February 25, 2009
The core of the organisation controlling and funding Sai Baba interests, the Sathya Sai Central Trust, is a tax and custom duty free institution by special allowance of the government. As a Charitable Trust it is not legally required to have any rules or guidelines. It is run entirely by the board, which always defers to Sathya Sai Baba’s wishes. No one knows how or when he delegates authority or exactly to whom, and he does not explain in public why he dismisses or engages directors to the Board. No known structure or defined way of dealing with matters exists, or if it does it is at any rate kept secret. It publishes no minutes from its meetings and is totally unaccountable to the public, or even to donors. In 1995 Colonel Joga Rao was dismissed from the Board of the Sathya Sai Central Trust for having bought an apartment block in Delhi he could not explain and for taking kickbacks from the contractors of many building project at Sathya Sai ashrams and other concerns, Larsen and Turbro.
The former Head of Prashanti Nilayam ashram and former Secretary to the Sathya Sai Central Trust (until 1996), Mr. Narayanan, was also dismissed from his posts by Sai Baba for financing a luxury villa in Bangalore with embezzled money. So the self-proclaimed all-knowing and righteous God allowed his servant to embezzle funds us all contributed to for so long and so much. This is the kind of example Sathya Sai Baba sets when he announced to every potential donor that “not a naya paise is wasted” (i.e. “not a penny”)! The same treatment awaited Mr. Nataraj, once head of the accommodation office at Prasanthi Nilyayam was also dismissed for long-term embezzlement.
One of the best known scoundrels was Mr. P. Suri of the Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust, who milked the system for years. In 1993, when the press descended on the ashram to investigate the murders in Sai Baba’s bedroom and the suspected corruption in the Trust and ashram, Suri was found to have 25 lakhs of rupees in his room for which he could give no account. Nor could he produce any accounts at all for the Book Trust of which he was the Convenor! Both the above were given the sack by Sai Baba, but not until their rascally practices had long been fairly common knowledge to residents, such as V.K. Narasimhan. Mr. Suri received 900 copies of the first edition of of my book (then entitled ‘The Source of Dream’), which was sold from the Prashanti bookshop for Rs. 50.- per copy (in 1994). No accounts were presented to me or anyone else, though V.K. Narasimhan tried to obtain such from Mr. Suri, but in vain! (See here)
Other authors of books donated to the ashram, including Al Drucker, Rita Bruce, and UK based Mr. Taylor (publisher of the ‘Gufa Narayana Ashram’ books) all suffered similar or worse treatment from Mr. Suri. He would accept money for printing a book, then not print it and not refund (Al Drucker experienced this but rationalised it as a ‘leela’ of Sai Baba!). Suri accepted printing plates from the Bruces (‘Vision of Sai II’ by Rita Bruce), but failed to use them as agreed for a new printing to benefit the Book Trust – claiming he had lost them. All the plates had to be made again in Bangalore by the Bruces at their own expense. Mr. Taylor, a servitor who ran one of the ashram shops voluntarily for years, arranged for the English translation and publication of the book ‘Gufa Narayana Ashram’ by Swami Maheshvaranand, which was a sell-out within days of its appearance. He told me in detail how he had offered the second volume to Mr. Suri for further (lucrative) publication by the Book Trust, giving him the manuscript. Mr. Suri held onto the manuscript and did not publish it, nor would he return it. It seems he had arranged to publish it with some other private printer and then take out the profits himself. Eventually, said Mr. Taylor . he had to ask Sai Baba about the matter and later the second and also a third volume appeared. Mr. Taylor left the ashram not long thereafter, calling Suri a crook. Such is the corruption right under the nose of the ‘omniscient avatar’! Amusingly, devotees were talking about something Sai Baba is reported to have told the head cook in the Indian canteen when asked about why he allowed these things to go on: “God allows his cows to shit where they will”. In any case, Sathya Sai Baba does evidently not constrain his ‘cows’ most of the time.
Sathya Sai Baba finally deposed Mr. Suri and was seen to ignore him totally where he sat, at the rear of the veranda. Lesser known is the fact that Mr. Suri had already lost two sons by that time. A former student of the Sai College who posted on a bulletin board, had the following to say:-
“We have all the respect for Mr Pramod Kumar Suri, who inspite of his very short temper & inhuman attitude towards his junior employees ,is a honourable man, we respect his sentiments. But we also are bothered about his late son Yuvraj, a fine young man & what he went through. Perhaps you may not know, but Mr Pramod Kumar Suri also lost his other son who died under mysterious circumstances in the SSS Hostel at Brindavanam.” It is true that Mr. Suri was a very morose looking man and I remarked to Rita Bruce that I never saw him smile. She replied: ‘He only smiles when he is lying “.
Mr. Suri was treated with contempt by Sathya Sai Baba his embezzlements and nastiness deserved (according to VKN) very similar practices were reportedly continued under Mr. Rajanathan, who took over the profitable position. One noteworthy fact about the methods used by staff at Prashanthi Nilayam is that, if by some error one pays in too large a sum of money, one cannot get a refund. My wife unwittingly did just that in 1998, due to a fault by the clerk who calculated wrongly and overcharged by hundreds of rupees!. They would not refund the difference even five minutes after payment and said they have an iron rule: to pay out nothing whatever. Instead the difference had to be placed in an account with them. Any money you have on account with them you can never recoup, but to make up for the amount they may sometimes send on some unwanted, unreadable trashy books that they can’t sell! But not even that at times. This underhand dealing from the Prashanthi Nilayam bookshop was confirmed to me by Aime Levy who started the Sai Bookshop in London (and donated the whole building he had financed plus all the profits to the Sathya Sai Organization.