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No check on funds to religious trusts - The Bombay Times

Jayeeta Chowdhury ()
7 February 1997

Title : No check on funds to religious trusts
Author : Jayeeta Chowdhury
Publication : The Bombay Times
Date : February 7, 1997

Smita Gupta's recent bid to convert to Christianity, has
opened a Pandora's box, revealing the irregular
transactions in the religious conversions market. Caught
in the middle is the Charity Commissioner's office which
claims that "besides keeping an account of the financial
transactions, especially donations" it doesn't have any
other power.

Meanwhile, regular foreign donations to the tune of
several thousand dollars, deutschemarks and lire, pour
into the city to the various religious trusts. The
Charity Commissioner's office is ludicrously
understaffed, working under an outmoded Act and reluctant
to take action as "prosecution takes years."

Mumbai alone has more than 15,000 trusts which have a
"religious objective" mentioned clearly in their
Agreement, and thousands others which indulge in various
religious, economic, social, financial objective
simultaneously. And the Charity Commissioner only "checks
the accounts that the trustees put forward for the
financial year".

Says an official of the CC's office "we are woefully
understaffed. Of the 45,000 trusts registered in Mumbai,
15,000 belong to various Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jew,
Buddhist and Christian groups. The Christian and Muslim
trusts are helped financially in a massive way, from
several countries and individuals around the globe."
Apparently, all the office can do is try and keep a
record of the various financial transactions in the city
and that too on the basis of the "information the trusts
giver us." The only way, the CC's office can start
proceedings against any trust is when a trust fails to
submit accounts or if there are complaints. "But, again,
we have barely 10 inspectors for this job and to go
through the records of several thousand trusts, annually,
is an impossible task. It is only when there is a large
misappropriation that the fraud be traced," says another
highly placed official.

And misappropriation or diversion of funds from the
actual religious objects is an altogether easy task. "The
money is clearly religious propaganda, especially for
keeping new 'devotees' in line, or the "spiritual leaders
in the lap of luxury," says the official.

According to a social worker J D'Costa (name changed on
request), there is plenty of black money being used, in
the city, especially for purposes of conversion
"particularly by the Christian, Muslim and Buddhist
sects. This is one of the most secretive and wide-spread
movements in the city."

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