As the government seeks to monetise gold worth an estimated $1 trillion (Rs 66.4 lakh crore) lying idle, all eyes are on their biggest repositories — the temples — but many of them fear that ‘melting’ of the ornaments donated by devotees may hurt religious sentiment.
The Gold Monetisation Scheme aims to bring an estimated 22,000 tonnes of gold lying idle with households, religious institutions and others into the financial system in return for a regular interest payout and the market-linked appreciation value. The gold can be deposited in the jewellery form, but it gets melted and the value is determined after testing its purity.
Among temples in Gujarat, the famous Ambaji temple has ruled out depositing its gold for the scheme at present, while Somnath temple has prepared a proposal, though a final decision would be taken by its trustees.
Dwarkadhish temple in Devbhumi Dwarka is yet to take a call, but the chairman of the temple trust committee H K Patel said the scheme was worth giving a thought.
The famous Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai is also looking at options to monetise its total reserves of 160 kg, of which 10 kg is already deposited with a bank.
The high-level Investment Committee of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which manages the world’s richest Hindu temple of Sri Venkateswara Swamy, will also meet soon to discuss the issue of depositing its gold under this scheme. “We will meet soon. We may discuss this issue,” committee member K Narasimha Murthy said.
Kanakadurgamma temple in Vijayawada, the second-richest temple in Andhra Pradesh, however has no plans to participate in this scheme.
The Devaswom Boards controlling most of the temples in Kerala are showing mostly lukewarm response to the central government’s scheme, except for the Guruvayour Devaswom that manages the famous Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvaoyur.
Among temples in West Bengal, Dakshineswar Kali Temple’s trustee and secretary Kushal Chowdhury welcomed the scheme. “We are interested in participating in it. What is the point of leaving the gold lying idle in our vaults?,” he said.
“Institutional gold has started coming. Tirupati has indicated 1.5 tonne, Shirdi 500 kgs. We have started dialogue with smaller temples of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana and gradually to temple trusts of other states,” State-run MMTC’s MD Ved Prakash said.