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House panel to probe charges against Iskcon

The government announced on Thursday that a House committee will probe the alleged scam concerning the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) and Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF), Bangalore.

"The committee will examine all charges levelled by opposition leaders against Iskcon, including the one of depicting the nation in poor light in the US to collect donations in the name of the mid-day meal scheme," law minister S Suresh Kumar told the assembly while replying to Congress leader D K Shiva Kumar's charges.

The probe report will be placed before the House, which will make final recommendations on any corrupt practices, if proved, Kumar added. However, the government declined to heed the demand of the opposition to stop grants for the mid-day meal scheme run by APF.

Primary and secondary education minister Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri said they will continue with the Akshaya Patra scheme, going by the recent report to the department that government (both Centre and state) funds amounting to Rs 379 crore per annum are being effectively used. "Of the 11 lakh children across the country, APF is feeding 3.67 lakh children in the state. Government money is being utilized effectively by this foundation here,'' he said. The government has also identified 111 NGOs to feed 70 lakh children in the state, for which Rs 379 crore is being spent annually, he added.

Seeking to move an adjournment motion earlier, Shiva Kumar alleged that Iskcon was indulging in profiteering and fraudulent activities in the name of Lord Krishna. Producing documents including I-T records collected from the US to substantiate his charges, Kumar said Iskcon has managed to raise huge funds to the tune of crores in the US for the mid-day meal scheme, though they have been receiving financial aid from both the state and union governments. "It is illegal to collect funds for a government-sponsored programme," Kumar said.

Releasing copies of photographs taken by Iskcon to promote its mid-day meal scheme abroad, Kumar claimed the trust has collected donations abroad by portraying India and its children in a poor light.

He also charged the trustees with financial irregularities in executing the government-sponsored scheme and amassing wealth by investing in real estate. "Huge lands recently brought by Iskcon in Bangalore and Srirangapatna are in the names of the trustees. This is against the trust norms," he alleged.

Keeping all this in view, Kumar suggested the government should take steps to appoint an administrator of IAS rank and stop issuing grants to the Akshaya Patra programme immediately.

Responding to allegations of misuse of funds, Iskcon vice-president Chanchalapathi Das welcomed the government's decision to set up a House committee. "We will place all facts before the committee. Let the truth prevail," he said.

Refuting Kumar's allegations, Das maintained that all the trustees jointly manage properties and none of them earn any profit from these. To make the administration more transparent, he said all the governing council members including him had voluntarily disclosed financial status and personal assets through individual affidavits filed before a magistrate.

On why the trust based its fund-raising campaign in the US, Das remarked that the organization was based in the US to enable donors there to get tax exemption.

Source: TOI


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