The Himachal Pradesh government is making a fresh bid to mobilise cash-stashed temples in the state to monetise their gold and silvering offerings, lying ideal in the vaults.
One year after the central government scheme failed to catch up with the trust, the state government has now written to all deputy commissioners to persuade the management to monetise the offerings.
Taking a cue from Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu, Himachal government’s department of language, art and culture amended a legislation three years ago, allowing temple managements to melt gold and silver ornaments to turn them into souvenirs and allow its sale to devotees visiting the shrines.
It proposed to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India (MMTC) to convert gold and silver ornaments into souvenirs. However, so far, none of the temples in Himachal have tied up with MMTC. The temple trust in Himachal Pradesh are of the opinion that government to draft a uniform policy for all the temples and fix a quantity for monetising gold and silver stacked in temple vaults .
There have been suggestions from the legislators and civil administration that temples trust should utilise the money for public welfare.
There are 29 scheduled temples in Himachal, which are stacked with gold and silver offerings. It appears that the temple trust in the state is still reluctant to monetise gold. The government has once again sent reminders to deputy commissioners to persuade temple trust to monetise the offerings,” said a higher government official, who requested anonymity on account of the budget session.
It was in 2013, the state government amended the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1984, that allowed conversion of 50% of the metal reserves in temples into mementos.
Besides souvenirs, gold coins weighing between two gram and 20 gram and silver coins between 20gm to 200gm were to be minted.
The state government aims to bring an estimated six quintal of gold and 200 quintal of silver lying idle with temples others into the financial system in return for a regular interest payout and the market-linked appreciation value.
So far, the response from the temples has remained lukewarm. Temple managements fear loss of precious metal during the purification process and melting of ornaments donated by devotees may hurt religious sentiments.
Chintpurni temple in Una district is the richest religious shrine. It has nearly two quintal gold and 170 quintal silver. It is followed Nainadevi, which too has 150 quintal gold and nearly 500 kilograms silver.