Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the governing board of the world's richest temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara, found itself in the thick of a controversy after the Vigilance and Enforcement Department named at least 25 persons, including three board members, for black marketing tickets meant for special services. The department conducted an inquiry after allegations that thousands of seva tickets meant for special pujas, including kalyanavotsam, were blocked by these persons and illegally sold at higher prices, often at more than Rs 50,000 each, and submitted a report to the state government on Monday.
There are over two dozen types of sevas that can be offered at the temple and the demand for tickets is such that for some sevas bookings are full for the next six-seven months.
The Vigilance inquiry also named the personal assistants of three board members for illegally selling tickets through agents. The others named in the report are all TTD employees having access to the ticketing system.
It is a major blow to the TTD because on August 3, even as the Vigilance inquiry was going on, the Andhra Pradesh High Court had directed the CID to investigate the illegal sale of tickets. The High Court gave the order in a petition filed by a TTD official accused of selling tickets in black. The court found fault with the investigation conducted by the police at Tirumala, where a case was registered.
Additional DGP (CID) A Siva Narayana said a special investigation team has been constituted which is conducting the inquiry. "The High Court gave broad guidelines directing the CID to probe into several angles, increase the scope of investigation based on clues, interrogate anyone and make arrests where necessary," he said.
The Vigilance report also found fault with the executive officer of the TTD, IAS officer I Krishna Rao, for turning a blind eye to the illegal sale of tickets and not acting on a preliminary report submitted by the TTD's vigilance officer. The report indicts the three board members and 25 others for cheating, breach of trust of lakhs of devotees, and black marketing, and has asked the state government to take action immediately. The report stated that personal assistants of some board members were misusing their positions to block tickets. The PAs tied up with several private travel agents in neighbouring states and provided tickets to devotees at exorbitant rates.
Reports of illegal sale of tickets at Tirumala, considered