Gold (representative image). Photograph:( Reuters )
A petition against the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to melt temple gold has been gaining traction. It has got over 40,000 signatures. The Change.org petition is addressed to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and officials under him. The government does not have any role to decide, which jewels are to be melted. The government’s hasty actions are violating the orders of the Madras High Court, claims petition
A Change.org petition against the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to melt temple gold has gone past 40,000 signatures and is gaining further traction.
According to the petition, which is addressed to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and officials under him, the secular government does not have any role to decide, which jewels are to be melted.
It also claims that the government’s hasty actions are violating the orders of the Madras High Court.
The DMK-led state government had recently announced their plan to melt temple gold (received as donation from devotees) and deposit it in nationalised banks and use the funds so obtained for the maintenance of temples. The government maintains that its Hindu religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department has appointed a panel headed by three former judges to oversee this process.
Quoting a Madras High Court suo motu judgement from June this year, the petition cites that gold audit for temples had not been done for the last 60 years and that there has been no inventory and centralised registry of the jewels.
It adds that the court had directed the relevant State Government Department (HR&CE) to conduct an external audit by India’s Comptroller Auditor General (CAG), under the expertise of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), besides creating a central registry and updating the details of the jewels, on a website that can be accessed by the public.
The petition alleges that the government has been rushing through in their decision and actions to melt temple gold.
In this regard, it is pointed out in the petition that temple trustees are the sole decision-makers on issues pertaining to melting of temple gold, etc and that the HR&CE department does have the right to decide.
It adds that trustees have not been appointed in several temples for many years. The illegality in allowing temples to function without trustees is also being highlighted.
Petitions against this move of the MK Stalin government continue to be heard by the Madras High Court. During an earlier hearing, the government had pointed out that about 500 kg of temple gold had been melted since 1977.
However, the petitioners opposed to this move and maintain that the government’s function was only to administer the temples and that it did not have the authority to touch the temple gold that was donated by devotees. They also raise questions over whether the antique gold ornaments also were being melted and whether there were clear records for the same.