Mumbai's Siddhivinayak temple considering monetising its gold

The government's gold monetisation scheme will strike first temple gold with Mumbai's Shree Siddhivinayak temple depositing a portion of its hoard with a bank by the end of this month for recycling.

The 200-year-old mumbai temple could perhaps be the first to respond to a government campaign to monetise some of the country's thousands of tonnes of privately owned stocks of gold and cut costly imports.

The Shree Siddhivinayak temple 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, reports quoted a senior official at the trust that manages it as saying.

The trust is expected to make an official statement on its plans next week.

The much-publicised gold monetisation scheme has so far failed to evince public interest and officials of the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India are discussing ways of modifying the scheme that barely managed to attract deposits of three tonnes of gold in four months.

Indians are reported to be holding on to an estimated pool of 20,000 tonnes in family chests, bank vaults and in temples, even as the country continues to import as much as 1,000 tonnes annually, only second to China's.

Gold imports also account for about a quarter of the country's annual trade deficit.

Several of the country's rich temples have collected huge quantities of gold jewellery, bars and coins over the centuries.

The Thirupati Sri Venkateswara Temple, perhaps the richest temple in the world, said at the end of last year it could deposit more than 5.5 tonnes of gold under the monetisation programme.

Economic affairs secretary, Shaktikanta Das, said after Friday's meeting that temple trusts have started expressing an interest in the monetisation scheme but did not name any.

Alongslde the gold monetisation scheme the government also last year launched a gold bond programme to soften demand for physical gold.