Donors cannot become legal or de facto owners: Donors of large sums for the right to use an apartment at the Prashanthi Nilayam (Puttaparthi) and the Brindavan (Whitefield) ashrams once used to become ‘owners’ – but only in name, not in reality. Usually after some years, by paying an additional fairly moderate sum (by Western standards) they were given the use of a small unfurnished concrete-block flat consisting of one room, a bathroom and a kitchen. The kitchen was the only room they could lock-up for their possessions while they were not staying at the ashram. The apartment thus is available for for the rest of the year to any visitor who it is allocated to. The “owner” has no legal paperwork or any legal rights whatever to the property.
The right to be such a so-called ‘owner’ of an apartment was far from automatic… one had to wait for Sai Baba’s personal blessing for this before being allowed to ‘buy in’… and many waited for years, and some without getting permission even when others ‘behind them’ in the queue did so. The right to use the flat was – and still can – be terminated by the ashram authorities without recourse to any hearing… and this has frequently happened. So the term ‘owner’ is highly misleading and intended to deceive. A more accurate way to say it would be ‘a lease-holder without any rights’. The idea was that Sai Baba granted the grace of tenancy of his property until such time as he saw fit to terminate this, whether due to misdemeanour or for any other reason. The term donor – in the sense of flat donor – does not mean one gets to have one specific room or ‘flat’, but usually gets whatever is free, but there are no guarantees of any kind in this case either. This was a further misappropriation of funds – without advance warning – of the ‘rights’ one was informed one would receive in return for the large donation involved.
God gives and God takes away! Devotees used to see the hard-won tenant’s privilege as major grace from the Lord of the Universe… yes, perhaps as the monopoly contractor and overall owner of the universe! But one can also lose ones flat if ashram officials see their way to accuse you of some breach of the rules set by this rich “God” – for whom they are the main earthly executives. Some devotees have simply had their flats taken away from them for some ‘sin’ in the eyes of those who rule the roost in the accommodation office. In one case of which I know the details from the owner, a man with serious heart problems, the head of accommodation took over his ground floor flat which he had furbished at considerable expense – without any compensation whatever – and it was given to an official of the ashram. He was given temporary flat use on the third floor, to which he could not climb because of his heart condition. No amount of pleading by his sons to ashram officials, or letters from the Sathya Sai Organization’s UK leader to Colonel Joga Rao or to Sai Baba etc. had any effect whatsoever.
Meanwhile note that Luxury buildings are reserved for Sathya Sai Baba’s exclusive use