The federal government of India, which seriously intends to cut the country's gold imports, has called on its many wealthy Hindu temples to disclose their gold holdings. But the institutions flatly rejected it, invoking the all familiar religious cliché 'God forbids.'
India's gold jewellery exports plunge by 70% in July due to a short-supply of raw material.
"The gold stored in temples was contributed by devotees over thousands of years and we will not allow anyone to usurp it," V Mohanan, secretary of the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad organisation in Kerala state, said in a statement.
"The gold we have is mostly offered by the devotees. They would not like the details to be shared with anybody," V M Gopala Menon, commissioner of the Guruvayur temple administrative board in Kerala, was quoted by Reuters News. The Guruvayur temple boasts of a 33.5-metre (110-ft) gold-plated flagstaff in its temple.
The gold offered by devotees to Indian temples usually come in the form of jewellery, bars, coins and statues of gods.
According to the World Gold Council, temples in India hold about 2,000 tonnes of gold, which at current global prices, are worth $84 billion.
As of end March 2013, India's imports of the safe haven yellow metal gold has reached a total worth of $54 billion.
India's federal government had been instituting measures to curb its gold imports in a bid to control its widening account deficit.
In a statement on Monday, the Reserve Bank of India said the country's deficit reached $21.8 billion in April through June, versus the previous quarter's $18.1 billion.
In 2013 alone, the government increased three times the levies imposed on imported gold bullion. The most recent was the 10 per cent in August.
India's central bank earlier said it sent out letters to some of the country's richest temples, asking for disclosure of their holdings of the safe haven yellow metal gold. They explained the measure is meant to simply collect and store data.
But the religious institutions as well as India's pious people hardly believed their intentions.
"We have given it to the god with a purpose," Subha Unnikrishnan, a clothes shop owner worshipping at one of the temples in Kerala's capital, Thiruvananthapuram, told Reuters. "Nobody can take them away."
To report problems or to leave feedback about this article, e-mail:
To contact the editor, e-mail: