M A I N   N E W S

Tussle likely over Sathya Sai’s legacy
Health condition shows improvement
Suresh Dharur/TNS

Puttaparthi (AP), April 7
As renowned godman Sathya Sai Baba battles for life, a question mark hangs over the future of a huge spiritual empire he has built over six decades.

In the absence of a clear line of succession, there are fears over the possible tussle for control over the Sathya Sai Seva Trust, set up in 1972. Already, there are reports of differences between the family members of the godman and the Trust authorities that manage the affairs of “Prashanthi Nilayam”, the spiritual abode of Baba.

According to an estimate, the properties of the Trust at Puttaparthi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai and other cities could be worth over Rs 60,000 crore. Besides, Sathya Sai Seva Centres are spread over 110 countries. However, financial details of the Trust are not in the public domain.

Meanwhile, the health of the 86-year-old ailing spiritual leader showed signs of improvement today. “There are some positive signs of recovery in the functioning of the kidneys, though he continues to be on ventilatory support. The doctors treating the Baba are satisfied with the response,” hospital authorities said.

Revered by millions of his devotees as the incarnation of God, Sathya Sai is chairman of the Sathya Sai Seva Trust, which manages a host of educational institutions, hospitals and charitable organisations. A veil of secrecy surrounds the functioning of the nine-member Trust, which includes former Supreme Court Judge Justice PN Bhagvathi, former vice-chancellor SV Giri, Indulal Shah and retired IAS officer Chakravarthi, who is the secretary.

As part of its philanthropic network, the Trust runs several schools, colleges, a deemed university, two super-specialty hospitals and implements drinking water schemes in several places, including the backward Ananthapur district.

There is a buzz in ashram circles here that the government might step in to ensure smooth functioning of the Trust in the event of Baba’s demise, though the government denies it. “There is no question of the government taking over the management of the Trust. We will not interfere with its functioning,” the Andhra Pradesh Revenue Minister N Raghuveera Reddy, who hails from Anantapur district, said.

There is also a proposal doing the rounds that the present all-powerful secretary Chakravarthy, a former IAS officer of the AP cadre, could be made the chairman. Though Trust officials are maintaining silence over the succession issue, there are reports that Baba’s nephew RJ Ratnakara Raju, the lone representative from the family on the Trust Board, is also in the race to head the organisation. A five-member team of the state government, headed by Health Secretary BV Ramesh, is constantly monitoring Sathya Sai’s condition and is also in touch with Trust officials and family members over the smooth transfer of the reins. Widely believed to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, Sai Baba had declared in 1963 that he would leave his physical body at the age of 96 and would be reborn as “Prema Sai” in Mandya district of Karnataka 10 years later.





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