As donations made in cash and other valuables to some of the “rich temples” in the country surged after demonetisation, causing the taxman to take note, the governing bodies of some of these places of worship have begun giving unprecedented emphasis on shifting to a cashless system.
Taking the lead, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which manages the Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, has drawn up a plan with the technical support of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to provide “enhanced services for the visiting pilgrims”, the essence of which is adoption of electronic mode of transactions. “In order to hold accountability and ease day-to-day transactions, the TTD Board has made arrangements for e-donations, e-hundi, e-publications, e-challan, e-darshan, e-accommodation and e-seva,” said an official.
The temple, touted as the world’s richest temple, receives roughly R1,100 crore as donations (hundi collections) from devotees every year or about R3 crore a day. The inflows have seen a jump after R500 and R1,000 notes ceased to be legal tender: hundi collections grew to about R4.2 crore a day over the last week.
The TTD board, along with TCS as technology partner, has in fact been providing services in the areas of darshan, accommodation, ladoo prasadam distribution and books. While these are a few conventional services, the TTD management is now working to develop an integrated next-generation application with futuristic technologies and data analytics for donor management along with better system operating procedures.
“TCS, as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, has been working with TTD towards enriching better pilgrim experience and implemented various improvements, including new online web portal enabling faster booking of sevas, darshan, refining donor management system, better system operating procedures, etc,” a TCS spokesperson said. “The online booking, arjitha seva tickets, accommodation, e-hundi, demat, e-books are just a few to mention. But still there is a long way to go and need to integrate the system by developing a next generation application,” a TTD board member told FE.
“Last week, we saw hundi collection of R4.2 crore/day, an increase from R2.5 crore/day with over 49,500 pilgrims visiting the temple. While it is difficult to say whether it is accounted for or unaccounted, generally devotees save for a year and then offer the same to god,” the official said. The temple receives offerings from devotees in cash, jewellery, gold, silver, property deeds and demat share transfers.