The world's richest temple Tirumala in Tirupati, abode of Lord Balaji, hasn't paid its staff salary due to the lockdown. The temple has been closed for about 60 days and its management Tirumala Tirupati Devesthanam (TTD) says it has lost a whopping Rs 400 crore so far. Most of its 23,000-strong staff got only half their salary for April.
TTD chairman Y V Subba Reddy tells Outlook it has already spent Rs 300 crore towards salaries, pensions and other recurring expenses. He says the average monthly revenue of the temple is around 200-220 crore and there has been no income since the lockdown was declared.
Why can't the TTD dissolve some of the Rs 14,000 crore it has in the bank to pay salaries? "The money is all in Fixed Deposits and Recurring Deposits, we can't touch that," says Reddy.
But some past office bearers of the temple management are surprised that TTD can have cash trouble. "The temple board has never faced any financial crisis in the past as it has abundant reserve funds. There is nothing wrong in these difficult times to liquidate some of the deposits and ensure that employees get their salary. Covid-19 crisis not going to continue forever and the money can easily be put back when the situation becomes normal," says a former Executive Officer of TTD who didn't want to be named.
Subba Reddy has already written to the Centre to permit them to reopening of the temple. On average around 80,000 people visit the temple daily and during festival days it crosses over a lakh. Despite the lockdown, the TTD did not stop its daily rituals to the deity with a limited number of priests says Dr Ramana Dixitlu, the chief priest of the temple. "We are confident of overcoming this crisis,” adds Subba Reddy.
The temple is set to be open soon on a trial basis. It will restrict 'darshan' to only a limited number of devotees, about 10,000 to 15,000 daily, with all the precautions for Corornavirus in place. The lord will need the generous offerings of his devotees urgently.