THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kovalam MLA Jameela Prakasam has criticised Finance Minister K M Mani’s stand that only the Supreme Court had the authority to know more about and take a final decision on the riches found in the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. Jameela said such a stand, which was spelt out by Mani in his Budget speech, was an insult to the experience and wisdom of the elected members of the Assembly and the people who voted them.
According to her, the riches were not safe in the Temple and she wanted the State Government to exercise its powers and shift the treasure to SBT’s ‘mega chest’ and convert the physical assets, except items of historical value like the throne of Kulasekhara Perumal, into financial assets. Once converted, these should be safely deposited in the state’s public sector banks, including the SBT.
She said to oversee the deposit, a committee should be formed with the Chief Minister as chairman, the Opposition Leader and Finance Minister as vice-chairmen, the Chief Secretary as convener and representatives of the royal family and the Finance Secretary as members. ‘’The corpus should not be touched, but the dividend from the deposit should be used to buttress the state’s critical social infrastructure like health and education, even the Vizhinjam project,’’ Jameela said. She was taking part in the discussion on the Revised Budget for the financial year 2011-12.
Jameela said she was concerned that Mani, while referring to the Padmanabha Swamy Temple, spoke only of obligations and responsibility. ‘’Though I have great regards for Mani sir, legal theory and jurisprudence say that obligations and responsibilities do not exist without rights and powers,’’ Jameela said and asked: ‘’How is the Supreme Court to know more about the riches found in the Temple. Is not the Government supposed to advise the court.’’
The Janata Dal (Socialist) member’s argument was that the money found in the underground vaults of the temple belonged to the once-discriminated sections of the society. ‘’The riches found in the unopened chambers of the Sree Padmanabha Temple does not belong to the Lord, it is not temple offerings, nor is it the property of the royal family. The chambers were in truth filled by extracting hundreds of discriminatory levies from the poor backward classes,’’ Jameela said.
She said natural justice says that there should be no taxation without representation. ‘’But such cruel levies, which were routed to the underground chambers, were imposed on people who were denied education, barred from entering temples, not allowed to drink from public wells and banned from public places,’’ Jameela said. She said there was a ‘head tax’ for lower-class men between the age of 16 and 60 and ‘breast tax’ for women. ‘’The rulers had but granted one concession for females. Two breasts were charged just one tax,’’ Jameela said.
She said such cruel taxation came to an end when one of the lower caste women sawed off her breasts using a sharp knife and placed them on the very leaf upon which she had placed her tax amount. ‘’The riches now found in the temple is not only squeezed out of the blood, sweat and tears of the lower castes, but it also carries the scent of the breast milk of a poor mother,’’ Jameela said.
Jameela based her arguments mainly on the two books written by J Darwin, ‘Nadunarthiya Nadar Porattangal’ and ‘Paithrikathinte Verukal’, published by Chintha and Bhasha Publications respectively.