A month after its letters to three devaswom boards and a temple trust in Kerala seeking details of the stock of gold in their possession were outrightly rejected, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has abandoned its plan to prepare a nationwide database of the amount of gold possessed by rich temples. In an RTI reply to advocate D.B. Binu of Kochi-based Human Rights Defence Forum, the RBI’s central public information officer S.K. Bal said the plan was no more in existence.
According to Mr. Bal, the bank has no plans to issue similar letters to other rich temples in or outside Kerala. Its earlier letters to Travancore, Kochi and Guruvayur devaswoms and the managing trust of the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram have invited angry reactions and each of them decided to ignore the letter.
“It was for just statistical purposes that we had sought information on the gold in their possession. But the move has evoked widespread suspicion on its motive. So the plan was dropped,’’ said the reply. Mr. Bal made it clear that the central bank was not intending to take any further action on the letters served to temple boards in Kerala.
According to highly placed sources in the RBI, its plan to prepare a database was part of the efforts to cut the import of gold and to bridge the widening current account deficit in the country. There were attempts to project the gold stocks of temples as a security for the RBI to intervene in the financial sector effectively.
According to rough estimates, temples across the country have gold stocks worth more than 2,000 tonne. They are being kept in temple treasuries in the form of jewellery, bars, coins and miniature models of deities. “Even attempts to collect details of the quantum of gold available in select temples evoked protests and suspicion. So, the bank has dropped its plan,’’ said Mr. Binu.
Meanwhile, RBI sources said that there was a welcome trend among temples to deposit their gold in nationalised banks.