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NRI organisation offers to buy foreign coins piling up at Lord Venkateswara temple

A heap of foreign coins has been piling as a large number of NRIs and foreign pilgrims from across the world visit the temple and offer coins and notes for the sacred Hundi.

india Updated: Jul 18, 2018 07:27 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Tirumala,Andhra Pradesh,Foreign coins
File photo of the Venkateswara temple on Tirumala hills.(PTI Photo)

The trust that administers India’s richest temple in Andhra Pradesh’s Tirumala has finally found a solution to a problem it has been facing for years: How to dispose of nearly 60-tonne foreign coins offered to Lord Venkateswara.

An organisation of Telugu non-resident Indians (NRIs) formed with the Andhra Pradesh government’s support – AP Non-Resident Telugu (APNRT) Society – has now offered to purchase the stock from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) at actual cost.

“While the foreign currency notes are exchanged with the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) for Indian rupees, there is no way the coins could be exchanged because of their small value. Repeated negotiations with the RBI authorities did not yield any results,” a TTD official said on condition of anonymity.

The TTD thought of sending the coins back to the counties of their origin. “But the transportation cost turned out to be more than the value of the coins,” the official said. The estimated value of the foreign coins could be around Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.5 crore.

APNRT chairman Ravi Kumar Vemuri said these coins have ceremonial value. “We, Indians, have the tradition of using coins at every puja performed on various occasions, whether it is a cradle ceremony or marriage, starting of new business activity or housewarming ceremony,’’ he said.

“Even in the countries like the US and the UK, Indians follow this tradition. Since these coins available with the TTD are considered sacred, since they come from the Hundi (cash chest) of the Lord, we thought there would be a huge demand for them from NRI Telugus.”

Vemuri said the society put forth the proposal called ‘Seven-Hills-to-Seven-Continents’ before the TTD. “We told them that we would pack these coins in small sachets made with sacred cloth and market them. Each sachet can have coins worth 20 US dollars and send them to the NRIs whoever asks for it through international courier services like Garudavega. They have to bear the shipping charges.”

Vemuri said APNRT has 85,000 members spread across 111 countries. “When we mooted the proposal on our WhatsApp group, there was an overwhelming response and they offered to buy these sacred coins.”

The society posted the proposal on its website, indicating the approximate value of a 20 dollars pack including shipping charges is around Rs 2,000.

“Initially, we proposed to take coins belonging to the US and the UK, which are in huge quantity. Besides, there are around eight tonnes of Malaysian coins, which the TTD was planning to auction to devotees from Tamil Nadu, but it would get lesser amount than their original value. So, we offered to take these coins, too,” Vemuri said.

The proposal is awaiting a formal approval from the TTD trust board. “Once it gets the nod, we will implement the plan,” he added.

First Published: Jul 18, 2018 07:22 IST