Puttaparthi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi  paid homage to Sri Satya Sai Baba on Tuesday.

Both leaders stood in silence in front of the glass casket containing the body of the spiritual leader, who died on Sunday and sat for a few minutes at the Sai Kulwant Hall.

They heard in rapt attention Sai bhajans being sung by followers before they left the hall.
Singh and Gandhi, accompanied by Union Minister Ambika Soni, arrived here by a special aircraft and drove straight to Prashanthi Nilayam, where baba's body was lying in state at the Sai Kulwant hall.

Earlier,Andhra Pradesh Governor E S L Narasimhan, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, who reached Puttaparthi in the afternoon, received Singh and Gandhi at the airport and accompanied them to Sai Kulwant hall.

Sai Baba would be buried in the Sai Kulwant hall here with full state honours between 9 and 9.30 am on Wednesday. The Governor and Chief Minister will stay in Puttaparthi and attend the burial ceremonial, officials said.

Time for darshan extended

Meanwhile, the final darshan timing for devotees of Sathya Sai Baba have been extended till midnight by the authorities with ‘bhakts’ continuing to surge into the town to offer their homage to the late Baba.

Three special trains from Secunderabad, Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada brought in a large number of devotees to the town on the final day of darshan.

Inspector General (Rayalaseema Region) Santosh Mehra said the darshan timing, which was to end at 6 pm on Tuesday, has been extended till midnight.

"Devotees are standing in queue of about 1.5 km and their arrival is on the rise. We are trying to ensure that all devotees have an opportunity to have a  final glimpse of Sai Baba," who passed away on Sunday after battling multi-organ failure, he said.

"We have spoken to Sai Trust authorities with regards to the extension of darshan timings from 6 pm till midnight and they have agreed for the same," he said.

Sai Baba would be buried in the Sai Kulwanth Hall here with full state honours between 9.00 and 9.30 am on Wednesday.

Ordinary devotees struggle to get the glimpse

However, ordinary devotees flocking Prasanthi Nilayam complained of disparity as they are unable to catch a glimpse of his mortal remains even as the rich and the mighty are being extended special privileges to get closer to his body.

The queue lines for the common devotees are blocked at least 30 feet away from the glass casket in which Baba's body is lying depriving them of a clear view.

Added to this, a platform erected for a lone camera, along with the equipment and the cameraman too are are also depriving devotees from having a full view of his deadbody leaving them totally anguished.

Apart ftrom VIPs only a select few are being allowed to go near the Baba's body .

"We came all the way from Payakaraopet in Visakhapatnam district and stood in the serpentine queue for more than three hours in the wee hours on Tuesday.

"In the end, as we entered the Sai Kulwanth Hall, we could hardly catch a glimpse of the Baba's body. All we could see from the distance was the Baba's orange robes as the face was not at all visible," complained N Appalanaidu.

His wife and son too could not see anything as suddenly some influential person went near the Baba's body and they were pushed aside by the people standing in the queue.

While the VIPs and the rich devotees, who are said to be regular donors to the Satya Sai Central Trust, are able to get up close to the Baba's body, another special line was formed a few feet away to enable friends and relatives of Trust members, government officials and police to get a glimpse.

Many foreign devotees who flew down to Puttaparthi too are decrying the discrimination. "During my earlier visit to Sai Kulwanth Hall when the Baba was alive, I could see him closely. Now, I had no such luck," Dissanayike from Sri Lanka lamented.

The situation turned worse this morning when the queue was moved further behind as a security measure in view of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit. Further, security restrictions are expected to be put in place by the time Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi reach the Hall for paying homage to Baba around 4.45 pm.

Devotee attempts suicide

A devotee of godman Satya Sai Baba attempted suicide by slitting his throat with a knife at his residence in a village in Chitradurga taluk in the district today, police said.
The man, Gangadhar (32) was admitted to a private hospital in Davanagere and stated to be out of danger, they said.

Sai Trust adopts resolution

The Trustees and members of the Council of Management of Sri Satya Sai Central Trust met at Prasanthi Nilayam here on Tuesday morning for the first time after Baba's demise and adopted a resolution after paying glowing tributes to him.

A statement was also issued on behalf of the Trustees . It said, "The task that lies ahead of the Trust is unquestionably enormous and complex, particularly in the absence of personal guidance from Baba.

"The Trustees and members of the Council of Management unanimously offer themselves in all humility and with a sense of total unity at the Lotus feet of Baba and pray to guide and inspire all the work they do with Sai's 'vajra sankalpa' (resoluteness) so that the Trust he founded continues to make the even the most difficult task achievable and turning  the impossible into reality exactly as it happened when he guided the Trust..

"It is our hope that he would graciously accept our prayer and respond to it so that the Trust shines now and forever with the radiance that is the hallmark of the founder."

The statement signed by all the Trustees was issued by Baba's nephew and Trust member RJ Ratnakar.

Baba wore a human face and acted seemingly at a human level. However, his actions and missions always bore the stamp of the ‘cosmic aspect of the divine’ imminent in an avatar, the statement added.

Sai Baba's aide given police protection

Meanwhile, another controversy has brewed up with the late Sathya Sai Baba's trusted aide Satyajit being given police protection following intelligence inputs that he may be facing a threat to his life.

Satyajit, a native of Tamil Nadu had been acting ae Baba's main 'caretaker' for many years.

He, however, had been facing a lot of allegations ever since Baba was hospitalised on March 28. The main allegation was that Satyajit did not feed him  properly and gave him lot of sedative drugs, resulting in deterioration of the latter's health, police sources said.

Doctors who attended on  Baba in the Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences neither confirmed nor denied that sedative drugs were given to him prior to his admission in hospital following respiratory problems.

Satyajit, along with the Satya Sai Central Trust secretary K Chakravarthi, is said to be enjoying the cheque signing power on behalf of the Trust and is seen as a most powerful man in the Ashram affairs.

"There are some people within the Ashram as well as outside who are antagonistic to Satyajit. There is a possibility of someone causing harm to his life in the wake of the Baba's demise. As such he is being provided police protection," a senior police official said.

Satyajit made only a brief appearance near the Baba's body last evening and remained mostly confined to his room in Prasanthi Nilayam where Baba lived.

It is learnt that Satyajit has been advised to stay confined to Prasanthi Nilayam till the last rites of the Baba.

JPN/Agencies