By Aastha Anupriya
India’s love for God and gold is no new news, and this is often seen culminating in the vaults of Hindu temples.
If the list by the IMF is anything to go by, the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Kerala houses gold worth more than a few countries’ GDP, that is an estimated $20 billion. Add to this, the 158 kg of gold offerings to Lord Ganesha at the Shree Siddhivinayak Temple, Mumbai, worth many millions of dollars. Again, add to that the wealth of hundreds of other temples. *jaw drops*
Indian temples have over 3,000 tonnes of gold with them. How does that help the country?
Indians’ insatiable appetite for gold has led to heavy imports of the same, somewhere around 1,000 tonnes a year, which accounts for a significant chronic trade deficit to the country. Now, these imports could be cut by up to a quarter if PM Narendra Modi does what he plans to, that is launch the scheme for temple trusts to deposit their gold with nationalised banks in return for an interest payment, and the gold can be melted and passed on to jewellers to meet consumer requirements. If an effective solution is arrived at, the INR can probably hold its head high!
Along similar lines, a gold monetization scheme was launched in the year 1999. Under that scheme, the State Bank of India which happens to be the top lender offers 0.75 to 1 percent in interest.
Today, while some temple trusts are expecting a minimum of 5 percent interest rate, others plan to make their decision depending upon the rate as and when disclosed by the government.
Sigh, ‘Offerings are made to God’.
A Mumbai-based businessman says, ‘I make donations to God, not to temple trusts. My father donated over 200 kg of gold to temples’.
I don’t even know if the phrase “donations to God” is as ironic as I think it is. Even if it isn’t, the idea of God is the purpose of the greater good, isn’t it? Well, devotion is a touchy subject.
Yes, anything pertaining to God, shrines, religion and very importantly, gold is a serious and sensitive matter. The crossover of temples and trade doesn’t go down well with most Indians. Sale and purchase of their golden offerings are unacceptable and it is highly likely that families will refuse to let go of their frequent gold purchase and heirlooms, for there is sentiment attached to it.
For example, one of the heavily endowed chambers (huge door with no lock or key) in Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple is said to be ‘locked with snake binding spells’. Wow. How does that happen? Harry Potter in those times?
Gold is still a good investment for the middle-class Indian household, so what if the nation is running into major trade imbalance? Either the consumption has to go down or the shrines have to pitch in. And, to us, both terms are unacceptable.