PUTTAPARTHI ~ It is not even two months since Sathya Sai Baba passed away. The members of his charitable trust, however, seem to have no time to mourn him, as they have started jostling, again. At stake is the control of his empire, his political legacy and the wealth—estimated at Rs 40,000 crore at least.
Last week, the Sathya Sai Central Trust opened Sai Baba’s private chambers—Yajur Mandir. They candidly revealed the haul of cash, gold, silver, jewellery and personal effects. The trust members, however, were wary of revealing that a handwritten will was also found.
While some denied its existence, the trust’s legal advisor queered the pitch by stating that a will was indeed found. In it, Sai Baba had asked that his caregiver Satyajit be given a prominent position in the trust. The Andhra Pradesh government is expected to question the trust members soon on several aspects, especially in light of the resignation of a prominent trustee, retired Justice PN Bhagwati.
Baba’s nephew J Ratnakar Raju announced to the press that Rs 11.56 crore cash was found in the chambers. The cash was counted by student volunteers with the help of three cash-counting machines, which were brought over from the local State Bank of India branch. The cash and bullion, which included gold articles weighing 98 kg and silver articles weighing 307 kg, were later deposited in the bank. Sources say the jewellery is estimated to be worth Rs 50 crore at first assessment. Professional assessors may put the figure much higher when they value it at current market value.
Sources say a meeting of the trust held last week ended suddenly after some members walked away in a huff, as Bhagwati insisted on inducting Satyajit in some capacity before a new trust was formed. Efforts to speak to Satyajit proved futile. Sources close to him told Open that he had left word stating he was still in mourning and did not want to speak to the press, as it would send out improper signals. The much-maligned Satyajit has been accused by some family members of: stopping a solid diet for Sai Baba when he was ill, administering wrong medicines and keeping everyone in the dark about Baba’s health till he was shifted to hospital. In the hospital, Sai Baba was on a ventilator for several days before he died.
Satyajit, now living under police protection, is the only one apart from Sai Baba who has access to Yajur Mandir, which has biometric iris- and thumb-recognition security devices on its doors.
Yajur Mandir, a few metres from where Sai Baba is buried, had been his abode for 25 years. The biometric security was put up after four alleged intruders were shot dead by the police in the early 1990s. After that, the place was renovated, and biometric security gadgets were installed.
The items found in Yajur Mandir give a glimpse into Sai Baba’s personal life. Apart from cash and bullion, gifts such as cameras and expensive wall clocks packed in suitcases were also found. There were around 500 pairs of footwear, including Nike and Adidas sneakers—all of size 7. There were expensive perfumes on the dresser, along with hair sprays and gels—to pamper his famous coiffeur. All these things were neatly stacked in separate closets, racks and cupboards—giving the impression that the late spiritual guru was meticulously organised.
An examination of the huge walk-in closet revealed 750 rustling silk gowns, mostly in pure white and saffron. There were bejewelled watches too (numbers unknown) from across the globe, which were gifted by followers. On the ground floor were at least three specially designed, motor-controlled wheelchairs, which the godman started using after a hip fracture some years ago. Most of these personal belongings would be displayed at the museum that is being planned, say trust members.