The 29 government-controlled prominent temples in Himachal Pradesh have a treasure trove worth Rs 178.79 crore in the form of gold and silver.
Revenue minister Kaul Singh informed the House while replying to a question by Dalhousie MLA Asha Kumari. Chintpurni legislator Kuldeep Kumar raised the issue in the absence of Asha Kumari.
Divulging detail, Kaul Singh said: “The temples taken over by the government have 4.73 kg of gold worth Rs 1,26.91 crore as per the current market rate as on December 5, 2014 and 158.81 kg of silver worth Rs 53.88 crores.”
The minister informed the House that the government would be signing an agreement with Mines and Minerals Trading Corp (MMTC), a public sector enterprise, for purification of the precious metals.
“The gold and silver lying with the temples will be converted into coins after purification,” said Kaul Singh, adding that the temples have no mechanism to check adulterated gold and silver offered by the devotees.
The minister said: “10% of the gold can be used for various activities related to the temples, 20% can be invested in State Bank of India's Gold Bond Scheme, 20% will be kept in the temple reserve, while the remaining 50% will be converted into souvenirs, including coins and the mementoes.”
Among 29 temples - which have been included in Schedule 1 of the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act of 1984 - Chintpurni shrine in Una district is the richest with one 1.72 quintals of gold and 59 quintals of silver.
“The temple also got cash donations to the tune of Rs 84.04 crore between 2011 and 2013,” said Kaul Singh in the absence of chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who also holds the language, art and culture portfolio.
The second richest temple is Naina Devi in Bilaspur district with 1.48 quintals of gold and 56 quintals of silver. It got cash offerings to the tune of Rs 50.61 crore in three years.
Other rich temple trusts included Jwalamukhi, Brajeshwari Devi and Chamunda Devi in Kangra district, Bhimakali in Shimla district, Mahamaya Balasundari temple in Sirmaur district and Baba Balak Nath in Hamirpur district.
Jawalamukhi and Brajeshwari Devi temples have 37 kg and 28 kg of gold, respectively, while Baba Balak Nath, Chamunda Devi, Mahamaya Balasundari and Bhimakali temples have 22 kg, 15 kg, 11 kg and 3 kg of gold, respectively.