Tirupati temple deposits 1,311 kg gold with PNB under gold monetisation scheme

The Tirupati Balaji temple, in Tirupati, one of the richest temples in the country, has deposited 1,311 kg of gold with Punjab National Bank (PNB) as part of its proposed investment of 2.3 tonnes (2,300 kg) of gold under the government's Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS).

The pure gold bars of 0.995 fineness, deposited with Punjab National Bank, are estimated to be worth up to Rs 400 crore.

Thirupati temple board said the gold was deposited with PNB as the bank quoted the highest return of 1.75 per cent interest per annum under the short-term deposit scheme for a period of three years under the GMS.

The temple board, however, wants more changes in the central government's Gold Monetisation Scheme to make it more attractive.

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD's') executive officer D Sambasiva Rao said the temple board has written to the Reserve Bank of India as well as the central government to amend the gold monetisation scheme.

''If we get a green signal from them, then we could be able to deposit the existing deposits as well as new ones under medium- and long-term schemes'', he said.

Short-term deposits are redeemed in gold. TTD said it is also willing to put gold under medium (5-7 years) and long-term (10- 12) years' maturity in which depositors are to be paid the rupee equivalent of the amount of gold deposited upon maturity. The RBI has allowed banks to offer redemption of deposits in gold as well, but for this, banks have to change the structure of the schemes.

Tirumala temple gets about one tonne of gold every year as offerings from devotees. This gold is typically sent to refineries or the government mint for conversion to gold bars, which are then deposited in banks.

So far, TTD has deposited about 5.5 tonnes of gold, which includes gold deposited in earlier gold deposit schemes.

TTD expects to get Rs778.93 crore in interest on such investments, according to its annual budget for 2016-17 that totalled Rs 2,678.07 crore.

TTD expects to receive Rs1,010 crore from capital funds ('kanuka') from devotees, which will be the major income, while Rs300 Special Entry Darshan is expected to fetch a minimum of Rs209 crore for the financial year, Rs114.5 crore from accommodation and Rs55 crore through Arjitha Seva tickets.

Wages and salaries are expected to be the major outgo at about Rs 500 crore.

For this financial year, an estimated Rs 150 crore is estimated to be earned towards the sale of human hair. A large number of devotees often pledge to get their heads tonsured at the temple if they believe that a wish has been fulfilled.