The vigilance and security wing of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the governing body of Lord Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh, has admitted that close to 26,000 of its famed laddus were misappropriated by contract and permanent employees, in a major scam that has come to light.
The laddus were reported to be worth Rs 14 lakh and were said to have been misappropriated during the Garuda Seva at the time of the recently-held Navaratri Brahmotsavam, when the temple sees a massive influx of pilgrims.
According to media reports, the vigilance wing of the TTD lodged a complaint with the Tirumala One Town police based on the directions of the bodyâ€™s Executive Officer (EO) A K Singhal, and is questioning close to 30 employees who had manned the laddu counters.
Other reports suggest that the TTD is looking at terminating the services of 17 people, who have been identified as the main accused behind the scam.
The issue had first come to light last month, when the TTD noticed that several contract employees allegedly tried to illegally divert thousands of laddus after faking that the laddus were sold, on record.
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 rush of devotees, the TTD administration took a call to issue the â€˜prasadamâ€™ 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, costing the bodyâ€™s exchequer a loss of Rs 14 lakh.
The laddu, introduced on August 2, 1715, 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.
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.