Govt not forcing temples to part with gold, says finance ministry

Amidst reports that the government is looking at gold hoardings with temple trusts and charity organisations, the finance ministry today clarified that government will not directly intervene to monetise the gold held by charitable, religious and other institutions.

''It is clarified that this is complete misinformation. The Gold Monetization Scheme is entirely voluntary and it is for individuals, institutions and others to take their own decision to monetise the gold held by them under the scheme,'' an official release stated.

However, the release pointed out that the objective of the scheme was to monetise the idle gold held within the country and promote financial savings. A good part of the monetised gold will also be made available to meet the domestic requirement of gold. This will help in reducing our gold imports and save foreign exchange and deal with the problem of current account deficit.

The clarification comes amidst reports that the Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple, popularly known as the Tirupati Temple, which has more than 5.5 tonnes of gold, may become the biggest contributor to the gold monetization scheme.

The gold monetisation scheme aims at persuading individuals, institutions and rich temples to deposit some of their gold stash with banks to recycle some 20,000 tonnes of gold lying idle.

India is the world's second-biggest consumer of gold after China and the country's insatiable appetite meant imports of the precious metal accounted for 28 per cent of India's trade deficit in the year ending March 2013.