Mumbai temple to mobilise gold

The 200-year-old Shree Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai has said it will deposit a portion of its gold hoard with a bank by the end of the month for recycling, responding to a government campaign to monetise some of the country’s thousands of tonnes of privately owned stocks of gold and cut costly imports.

Officials from finance ministry and Reserve Bank of India met today to discuss modifying the much-publicised scheme after managing to attract deposits of only three tonnes of gold in four months out of an estimated pool of 20,000 tonnes stacked away in lockers and temple vaults.

Indians love gold, both as a store of wealth and gifts for humans and gods alike, and the country’s appetite for it is next only to China’s. Annual imports run to as much as 1,000 tonnes, accounting for about a quarter of the annual trade deficit.

Dozens of rich temples have collected billions of dollars in gold jewellery, bars and coins over the centuries, hidden securely in vaults, some ancient and some modern.

One of them, Shree Siddhivinayak temple devoted to Hindu elephant-headed god Ganesha, is now examining various proposals and will soon choose a bank to deposit 44 kg out of its total stash of 160 kg of gold, said a senior official. The official said they did not want to be named before a statement is issued, which is likely to happen next week.

India’s Economic Affairs Secretary, Shaktikanta Das, said after today’s meeting that temple trusts have started expressing an interest in the monetisation scheme but did not name any. thehimalayantimes