Kerala: Travancore Devaswom Board Plans To Deposit Gold Offered By Devotees With RBI, Follow Examples Set By Other Temples’ Boards

Kerala: Travancore Devaswom Board Plans To Deposit Gold Offered By Devotees With RBI, Follow Examples Set By Other Temples’ Boards The Travancore Devaswom Board headquarters.
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  • Initial estimates show that TDB could deposit as much as 1,200 kg of gold with the RBI, which will give two per cent annual interest rate on the value of gold deposited.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the administration of 1,248 Kerala temples including Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, plans to deposit all gold offerings made by devotees with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the Gold Monetisation Scheme.

A report in Malayala Manorama quoting TDB President N Vasu said the board had taken an ‘in-principle decision’ and it was estimating the value of gold across the temple the board administers.

Initial estimates show that TDB could deposit as much as 1,200 kg of gold with the RBI, which will give two per cent annual interest rate on the value of gold deposited.

However, ornaments used for temple rituals, poojas and daily worship, besides those having antique value, will not be touched, he said.

Evaluation of gold with the board’s temples would be completed before the end of the month.

All the gold offerings received in the form of coins, mangalsutras or other such objects will be melted and purified before being deposited with the RBI.

TDB will follow the footsteps of the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD), the administrator of the world’s richest Sri Balaji Temple, and the Guruvayur Devaswom Board that runs the Sri Krishna temple in Guruvayur.

The Guruvayur Devaswom Board had deposited 400 kg of gold with the RBI in 2009 through the Mumbai branch of the State Bank of India for seven years.

Last year, the Guruvayur board decided to deposit another 350 kg of gold received during 2009-2019 as offerings from devotees.

The TTD deposited 2,780 kg of gold in August 2017 that would fetch 2.5 per cent interest for 12 years.

The Somnath Temple Trust, too, has deposited six kg of gold with the RBI.

Besides, four temples in Tamil Nadu and one each in Jammu and Maharashtra have also deposited their gold with the RBI.

Introduced in 2015 by the Narendra Modi government to tap the gold that is idling in the country, the Gold Monetisation Scheme replaced the 1999 Gold Deposit Scheme.

The objective of the government was to mobilise gold idling with households and institutions and to make productive use of it, besides curbing the import of gold into the country.

According to the World Gold Council, India holds the largest amount of gold above the ground and it is estimated at around 21,000 tonnes.

A feature of the Gold Monetisation Scheme is that the yellow metal can be deposited with the RBI under short-term, and medium and long term deposits.

Short-term deposits are for a duration of 1-3 years, medium-term for 5-7 years and long term for 12-15 years.

Medium-term deposits attract an annual interest rate of 2.25 per cent and long term deposits 2.5 per cent.

Gold deposited under the scheme is valued as per the London Gold AM fixing price prevailing on the day when the yellow metal is deposited with the designated commercial bank.

Going by Vasu’s statement, the board could be going in for a short-term deposit of gold, though he said a decision will be taken at a board meeting.

The daily reported that opposition was brewing against the decision, but it remains to be seen in view of a precedent being set by the Guruvayur Devaswom Board.

Last month, the TDB decided to sell lamps and traditional brass utensils in temples under its control to overcome the financial crisis faced due to the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country.

The sale plan was opposed by devotees and since then, nothing has been heard about it.

It is not clear if TDB plans to deposit gold in view of any financial crunch.

Besides the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, the TDB manages, among others, the Haripad Sree Subrahmanya Temple, Ettamanur Mahadeva Temple, and the Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple — all of which draw a good number of devotees.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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