Shirdi temple trust to back welfare projects'

The Nilwande dam project will resolve Shirdi's water scarcity problem, he added.

Mumbai: Despite facing heavy criticism over his decision to allocate funds of Rs 500 crore to the state government, Suresh Haware, chairman of the Shri Saibaba Sansthan in Shirdi, has asserted that the trust would continue to support such projects, which are meant for public welfare.

In an exclusive chat with The Asian Age, Mr Haware said that it is people’s money and would be used for their benefit only. The Nilwande dam project will resolve Shirdi’s water scarcity problem, he added.

The trust had decided to provide ‘interest-free’ loan worth Rs 500 crore to the Maharashtra government for constructing a canal network for the Nilwande dam, which is located on Pravara River. This is perhaps for the first time a temple trust has allotted such a huge amount for a development project.

The decision has evoked mixed reactions with some terming it a proper use of the temple’s funds, while others saying it would affect the development works undertaken by the trust for devotees.

However, Mr Haware defended the decision saying it is expected to benefit 182 villages in Ahmednagar and Nashik. “Shirdi comes under a drought-affected region and it has facing water scarcity for a long time. The Nilwande dam project, which has been stuck for last 40 years, will not only solve its water shortage problem but also bring 1.5 lakh acres of non-irrigated land under irrigation, thus benefiting lakhs of farmers.”

The Nilwande dam project is ready, but canals needed to be built for it to be used for irrigation and drinking water purposes. Hence when the state government asked the trust to provide funds, we approved the proposal by offering interest-free loan on a refundable basis, he added.

This is not for the first time the trust has provided money for public projects. It had earlier provided Rs 50 crore to the Maharashtra Airport Development Company for the construction of the Rs 350-crore airport located at Kakadi village.

The Sai Sansthan, which is considered as one of the richest temples in the country, has cash deposits worth Rs 2,200 crore in its kitty. Apart from this, it has 450 kg of gold and 5,000 kg of silver ornaments in its treasury.

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