A scam has rocked the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the governing body of the Lord Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala, after several contract employees allegedly tried to illegally divert thousands of laddus after faking that the laddus were sold, on record. According to the vigilance wing of the TTD, the incident took place during Garuda Seva at the time of the Navaratri Brahmotsavam.
According to the TTD's website, every day on an average, about 3 lakh laddus are sold in Tirumala. It does so with the help of tokens, to ensure transparency in dispensing the laddus.
As there was a massive influx of devotees during the Brahmotsavam, the TTD administration took a call to issue the ‘prasadam’ to even those devotees, whose tokens were not getting scanned. Officials now suspect that outsourced staff at 22 out of the 32 counters in the complex used the unscanned tokens days later, to divert thousands of laddus, which they sold for a higher rate.
According to media reports, TTD’s Chief Vigilance and Security office T Siva Kumar said that they were questioning some contract workers and trying to ascertain the magnitude of the scam and its modus operandi.
While the normal price of a laddu is Rs 25, as a privilege to pilgrims who understake the Sarva Darshan (free darshan) and Divya Darshan (pedestrian pilgrims), TTD provides two laddus at a subsidized rate of Rs.10 for each laddu.
The laddu is a major source of the TTD's revenue and adds several crore rupees to its annual budget. It is made with flour, sugar, ghee, oil, cardamom and dry fruits.
In 2015, the laddu entered its 300th year as temple officials said that the offering was introduced on August 2, 1715. However, it obtained a license from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) only in 2017.
The TTD had approved an annual budget of Rs 2,858 crore for 2017-18 and have stated that the temple's earnings during 2018-19 are expected to be around Rs 2,894 crore.