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Shivakumar wants to take ISKCON row to assembly


By: B V Shiva Shankar Date: 2009-07-21 Place:Bangalore

Says apart from dealing in real estate, society was selling India's poverty abroad and it was time the govt stepped in


THE Iskcon land row just got curiouser with Congressman D K Shivakumar urging the government to take over the society itself.


Dubbing Iskcon's real estate activities illegal, Shivakumar has demanded a CBI probe saying there were many irregularities in the society's activities.


Speaking to MiD DAY in the state assembly lounge, he said he would raise the issue on the floor of the house.

"If this government is not able to take over Iskcon, I will wait for our government to come, and show them what I am," said Shivakumar.


Root of the problem

Iskcon is developing residential and commercial complexes on 35 acres of private land on Kanakapura Road, to fund its ambitious theme park on 28 acres of government-allotted land.


Shivakumar was one of the bidders when the private land was put on sale a couple of years ago.


"Shivakumar was eyeing the land and now he is making a noise because he wants to gobble it up," said a source in the Congress. "However, it is bad to hinder the project which is in the interest of tourism more than anything."


DKS' grouches

Admitting that he was one of the bidders, Shivakumar said that while politicians could do real estate business, it was illegal "if a religious institute makes money" by selling land.


He was also miffed that Iskcon-controlled Akshaya Patra Foundation was collecting money under a government-supported scheme to feed school children. "While other NGOs like Adamya Chetana are spending Rs 2.80 per meal for each child, why is the Iskcon foundation showing Rs 6 as the cost?" he asked.


"They are collecting money from outside India by exaggerating our poverty, which is nothing but an insult to the country." Refuting the charges, Chanchalapathi Das, vice-president of Iskcon and vice-chairman of Akshaya Patra Foundation, clarified, "We were spending Rs 6 per meal, but now things have improved and the cost is just Rs 4.80. We have to spend that much to give quality food."


He said the foundation was getting Rs 2.64 per meal as government support, while the rest was funded by donations.


Shivakumar also alleged that Iskcon and Akshaya Patra had both become family trusts, since the two key people controlling them are related to each other. Interestingly, Chanchalapathi Das and Madhu Pandit Das, Iskcon president and Akshaya Patra chairman, are co-brothers, married to sisters.


All in the family

Madhu Pandit Das and Chanchalapathi Das are co-brothers married to sisters Bhakthilatha Dasi and Chameri Dasi.

Madhu Pandit Das, whose former name is Madhusudan S, was born in 1956 in Trivandrum. He was selected by the National Science Talent search programme as a pre-degree student. During his days as a student in IIT-Mumbai, he became interested in the books of Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of Iskcon. In 1981, he became a full-time member of Iskcon.


Chanchalapathi Das, who was earlier known as S Chandrashekar, was born in 1963 in Bangalore. While an undergraduate student in PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, he became interested in the message of Srila Prabhupada. Later he joined the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for a Masters programme in Electrical Communication Engineering. He became a full-time dedicated member of Iskcon in 1984.


Chanchalapathi Das said it was a conscious decision to marry because Iskcon allows married life. "The two sisters were devotees and they remain devotees. Iskcon members can marry fellow devotees," he said.


Bhakthilatha Dasi is a BA graduate who was a teacher at a Chennai school before becoming involved with Iskcon.


Chameri Dasi is a graduate in English literature and has been a full time worker at Iskcon all along.


Pai condemns 'politicians poking their nose'

T V Mohandas Pai, director-human resources, Infosys, and one of the trustees of Akshaya Patra Foundation countered D K Shivakumar's allegations strongly.

"It is not a family trust but a public trust which is serving a cause. It is disgusting that politicians are poking their nose in this to nurture their own interest."

Pai said that Akshaya Patra had four external trustees apart from him, and three permanent trustees representing Iskcon.

He also defended the expenditure incurred per meal, saying they were providing better quality food.

He ridiculed Shivakumar's allegation that Iskcon was selling India's poverty in the global market, saying, "It is a fact that 40 per cent of Indian children are malnourished. I want to ask politicians why they could not solve this after 60 years of independence?"

Pai also expressed surprise at why Shivakumar was raising these issues now, since he was a powerful cabinet minister in the S M Krishna government which cleared both Akshaya Patra scheme and the theme park.


The Krishna factor

Representatives of Iskcon are understood to have met S M Krishna, former chief minister and now foreign minister, in Bangalore on Sunday.

Although he is known to be Shivakumar's political mentor, he reportedly expressed his solidarity with Iskcon.

When MiD-DAY brought the meeting to Shivakumar's notice, he said, "Krishna doesn't know so many things about the Society. I will speak to him, and he will change his stand."


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