The Church administrators in Andhra Pradesh are not only enjoying a free hand from the government to capture public land but, to also fraud the foreigners who want to donate for their welfare. As per a report by The Print, a Canadian couple, Rita and Grant Corbett donated $1.5 million to Seventh Day Adventist Church to build a school in Andhra Pradesh, but the local church administrators built the school on prohibited land instead of spending the donation on purchasing a piece of land.
The money was donated by the Canadian couple in 2009 to build a school in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh. Over the years, the school building was completed but when the couple visited the school after the construction of the last building, they found that it is built on land allotted to landless poor by the state government.
As per the report, “the Corbetts have knocked the doors of the church administration, the local police, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s office as well as the Andhra Pradesh High Court, struggling to get the alleged wrong undone” but without any success.
The school was constructed by Hope Centre, which falls under the East Central India Union of the Southern Asia Division of Seventh Day’s Adventist Church. When contacted about the irregularity in the construction of the school, the President of East Central Indian Union refused to comment.
“The Hope Centre campus is headquarters for 630 churches in the Prakasam, Nellore and Chittoor districts in Andhra Pradesh. Beyond that, I don’t want to make any comment,” he said.
Given the fact that the land allotted to the landless poor by the state government cannot be sold, the construction of a school on that is illegal, irrespective of the church administration paying those poor farmers or not. Mostly, in these cases, the land allotted to landless poor or tribal communities by the state is purchased by the church administration at nominal rates to expand its footprint and bring money into its coffers. Given the religious nature of the matter, the governments, especially if led by fellow Christians like Jagan Mohan Reddy, do not pursue the case of illegal land grab.
“The church authorities purchased the land at a cheap rate from a farmer. The land was fallow and not productive, and the farmer needed the money. Because I raised my voice, I got transferred to a remote town within Andhra Pradesh,” said a pastor who raised voice against the corruption by the church administration.
The Andhra government is busy in distributing freebies to Christian community instead of addressing the issues like land grab by the church. Previously the Jagan government increased honorarium to pastors and Imams while it continued to control the finances of Hindu temples and even take money from them.
“The honorarium to Imams is proposed to be enhanced to Rs 10,000 per month and of Mouzzans to Rs. 5,000 per month. Similarly, it is proposed to provide Pastors with an honorarium Rs. 5,000 per month,” said the finance minister of Andhra Pradesh in the budget speech.
It is well known that many Christian organizations run education and medical trusts; being a minority institution they do not have to pay taxes and make a lot of money. These institutions also have reserved seats for people from their communities, and even top colleges such as St Stephens College and Delhi University carry out this practice. Similarly, there are Madrasas and universities run by Muslims, and in their case, even the government provides them with funds to establish these institutions. And, even after such favouritism by the government, the administrators of church and Madrasas get involved in land grabs and the government keeps mum on the issue.