Thursday Aug 11, 2022
Thursday Aug 11, 2022

The Pashupati Dharamshala Issue: Unholy nexus or socially beneficial?

Both opposing sides claim to be advocating the interest of pilgrims and devotees


Nepalnews
2022 Feb 02, 15:28,

Making headlines for the past few days is the Pashupati Dharamshala land lease issue. The ‘Marwari Sewa Samiti’ has been leasing the land for the past many years and pays a support donation amount to the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT).

According to the 76/77 fiscal year report, they pay a mere rental amount of Rs 4,250 and an annual support compensation of Rs 51,000 while operating commercial stalls at the Pashupati Dharamshala compound and rake in an estimated profit of approximately Rs 50 million.

As per an agreement dated 26 May 2003, the Amalakot Kachari Guthi that owns this land, leased it out to the Marwari Sewa Samiti for the purpose of cattle grazing and as a pasture for the cows and oxen brought by devotees into the temple. The agreement stated that the Marwari Sewa Samiti shall run the aforementioned land paying Rs 51,000 as maintenance or a goodwill fee to the PADT with no expiry date or rent compensation specified in the agreement.


The Marwari Sewa Samiti run Pashupati Gaushala Dharamshala today runs the pilgrims rest homes, cattle grazing pastures along with renting out a few shutters across the Gaushala road; with each store shutter approximately costing around Rs 25000 to Rs 35000 per month in rent. The issue that is being heatedly debated today is not their operation of the Dharamshala but the supposed blatant misuse of government resources and public lands, an issue that has spanned decades with the government deciding to act on it only more recently.

As per the PADT bylaws the agreement between the two parties that own and lease the land is illegal. As per Clause 18(A) pertaining to the buying and selling of the land, the parties must obtain permission from the government or its specified body before entering into any sort of agreement with any national or international entity. However, there has been no permission requested or granted for any such agreement to take place. In effect this brings into question the legality of the agreement that today is seen as exploitative and illegal.

Concerns voiced a decade ago were investigated initially by the Central Investigation Bureau for Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on 27 April 2009. The first clause in that investigative report stated that the agreement that was struck between the Marwari Sewa Samiti and the Amalkot Guthi did not have an expiry date, and the second clause pointed out that the compensation of 51,000 was too less an amount and that the parties involved must negotiate a higher price of compensation. However, due to court issues and a plethora of underlying problems these directives and a compromise to revisit and rectify the agreement was never implemented.


More recently, an investigative committee was formed under the directive of the Culture and Tourism Minister Prem Bahadur Ale to investigate and present a report. As per this report the lease agreement that was struck between the two organizations was done so without the prior agreement with the government. Second, it mentioned that in acquiring the tender for the lease of the land there was a probability of collusion among the parties. Further detailed investigation was required and so a committee has been formed to look into it.

Speaking to NepalNews, Rewati Raman Ahikari, the official spokesperson of the Pashupati Area Development Committee, says, “The agreement itself was done without governmental permission years and years ago, we cannot deny the fact that the agreement exists, neither can we deny that the building of commercial sources in these public areas exists. What we must do now is look forward to seeing how this issue can be resolved. ” He says, they have formed investigative committees that have certain directives and are waiting for the latest investigative sub committees to complete their investigation and then move onwards to see how this agreement can move forward”.

Further elaborating on the solutions to the problems, he says, “We either null and void the agreement itself through court, for it has no legal base to stand or we can work out a compromise between the organization for more compensation and rent to the PADT proportional to that of what the commercialized sectors make.”


“The Pashupati area belongs to the people and devotees who pay pilgrimage to the site every day. This land belongs to the people hence any money or benefits it yields must be for the people, hence the compensation amount that hopefully can be agreed upon must be proportional to the large sum they make and shall be used to develop the Pashupati premises itself,” he concludes.


This sentiment is also echoed by the organization that finds itself on the wrong end of some media backlash recently.

Visitors taking pictures with the pigeon inside the Pashupati temple on September 10, 2021. Photo: Prasan Gurung/Nepalnews
Visitors taking pictures with the pigeon inside the Pashupati temple on September 10, 2021. Photo: Prasan Gurung/Nepalnews

Speaking to NepalNews, the Secretary General of the Marwari Sewa Samiti run Pashupati Gaushala Dharamshala Mahabir Ghiraiya, mentions that his organization has always been there and will continue to exist for the pilgrims and for the people and that all the work they’ve done is for the pilgrims itself.

“The supposed millions of profit we’ve made don’t go into our pockets; it goes into the development and day to day running of the Gaushala itself. From buying grains to medicine, to helping run the night-stay quarters and community lunches, the sensationalized numbers all spawn from the community and are put back into the community itself.” affirms Ghiraiya.


“The biggest misconception in the media today is that the Marwari Sewa Samiti, rents out the land from the government body. This is completely false. The area was handed over to us; we are beneficiaries “mohi” of the land, the Rs 51,000 that is being quoted as the rent money that we pay is one that our organization gives as a support donation to the trust. It is in no shape or form a rent.”


Further elaborating on the activities of the Dharamshala, he adds, “We have around 200 cows in the Dharamshala each raising a cost of about Rs 500 per head daily, along with that we run community lunches, shelters and have many expensive projects that are underway. We recently started our Community Dialysis program that is estimated to cost us around Rs 10 crore, the so-called money we make isn’t enough to even run the Dharamshala let alone its projects.”

He informed that it was through donors that they fund these projects and are simply employees here to oversee these socially beneficial projects and maintain the Dharamshalas standards.

“If proof is what the public and media seeks, we have that too, we have the official handover documents, land registration papers and audited accounts that show our balance and where all the money is being used,” he states. “We’ve reached out to the PADT for joint projects but it is to no avail. The projects we launch here cost a lot of money and are for the people itself, we can’t simply build something or start a community project and hand it over to the PADT, we need to ensure that the project is maintained at optimum standards and are properly managed so we do it ourselves.”

READ ALSO:

Dharamshala Pashupati Area Development Trust Pashupati Commercialization Rewanti Raman Adhikari Mahabir Ghiraiya
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