Dharamsala: Twenty-nine famous government-controlled temples in Himachal Pradesh have deposits of gold and silver worth Rs 178 crore, according to Revenue Minister Kaul Singh.
"The government is shortly going to sign an agreement with the public-sector Mines and Minerals Trading Corp (MMTC) for purification of four quintals and 73 kg of gold and 158 quintals and 81 kg of silver lying with the temples," he told Vidhan Sabha during question hour.
He said the total worth of gold in the current market is Rs 126.91 crore while the worth of silver is Rs 51.88 crore.
"The temples have no mechanism to check purity of gold and silver offered by the devotees and conversion of the metals into souvenirs would be done only after purification," the minister said.
Ten per cent of gold can be used for various activities related to development of temples, 20 per cent can be invested in the State Bank of India's Gold Bond Scheme, 20 per cent can be retained as reserve of the temples while the remaining 50 per cent will be minted for souvenirs including coins and the mementos, he said.
Congress member Sanjay Rattan expressed concern in the Assembly over lack of security arrangements for huge quantity of gold and silver lying in the temples.
The shrine of Chintpurni in Una district with 1.72 quintals of gold and 59 quintals of silver is the richest and it also received cash donations amounting Rs 84.04 crore between 2011 and 2013, Kaul said.
Other cash rich temple trusts included Sri Naina Devi in Bilaspur, Jwalamukhi, Brajeshwari Devi and Chamunda Devi in Kangra district,?Bhimakali in Shimla district, Mahamaya Balasundari temple in Sirmaur district and Baba Balak Nath in Hamirpur district, he said.
The hilltop Naina Devi, the second richest temple, has accumulated 1.48 quintals of gold and 56 quintals of silver besides cash offerings of Rs 50.61 crore in three years.
The Jawalamukhi and Brajeshwari Devi temples have 37 kg and 28 kg of gold respectively while the income from offerings stood at Rs 25.38 crore and 12.61 crore from 2011 to 2013 respectively, the minister said.
The Baba Balak Nath, Chamunda Devi, Mahamaya Balasundari and Bhimakali temples have 22 kg, 15 kg, 11 kg and 3 kg gold, respectively. While silver reserves are two quintals, five quintals, 16 quintals and 5 kg silver respectively, he added.
The minister said these 29 temples have been included in schedule 1 of the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act of 1984 and are managed by temple trusts.