Kerala temples say no to RBI request on gold

T K Devasia
Filed on September 16, 2013

The Guruvayur Devaswom Board, which administers the famous Sri Krishna Temple at Gurvayoor in Trichur district of Kerala, has rejected Reserve Bank of India’s request to provide them details of gold assets of the temple.

A meeting of the temple’s ad hoc managing committee chaired by permanent member Samoothiri Manavadevanraja took the decision unanimously saying it was impractical to assess the gold stock correctly. Board administrator K Muralidharan said the bank had requested the committee to provide details of gold stock in its possession as part of collecting the gold assets of places of religious worship in the country, trusts and other establishments.

The Sri Krishna Temple is one of the richest temples in the country. Sources close to the temple say the amount of the gold reserves and other valuables could be more than 600kg. The temple has already deposited 500kg of gold bars in the State Bank of India. The other temples have also expressed apprehension over the RBI query.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which administers over 1000 temples in the southern districts of the state, will be meeting next week to consider the RBI request.

Temple authorities and various Hindu bodies came out openly against the RBI move saying it was part of a well-planned effort to convert the gold into bullion to tide over the financial crisis faced by the UPA government. They also expressed fear over the security risk the revelation poses to the temples.

Shantha Kumar, deputy general manager at the RBI regional office here, has termed the apprehensions being raised by various quarters baseless. He told the Khaleej Times that the RBI had no intention to convert the gold into bullion.

“We sought the details as part of a statistical exercise to gather details of the gold in the possession of all places of worship and other public bodies. We started the process with temples. We had planned to cover the places of worship of other communities, trusts and establishment in subsequent phases,” Shantha Kumar said.

Shantha Kumar said the move was prompted by the curiosity and not guided by the current economic situation marked by the slide in Indian rupee or the rising prices of the gold in the international market.

Referring to the security concern expressed by certain quarters, Shantha Kumar said the RBI had guaranteed total confidentiality to the information shared with them. “We had promised not to share it with anyone else,” he added.

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