With the ever increasing Current Account Deficit (CAD) and falling rupee, an untrained trade minister of India came with a fantastic idea of monetising gold holdings, including that with the temple trusts. Though these are not first attempts to take control over the holy Hindu places by the “secular” governments, monetising the temple gold is a highly discriminatory and deplorable suggestion.
First of all, unlike mosques and churches, most of the State governments have direct or indirect control over the temple trusts under Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act (HRCE Act), 1951. This was in continuation of the British policy of looting temples for administrative purpose and many State governments are continuing the same. Even Tirupathi and Siddhi Vinayak temples have government representatives as its trustees. There is no further scope and need for State intervention.
Secondly, temple trust holdings are offered under trusteeship by the individual devotees for certain divine and human activities of social benefits. Sai Santhan of Shirdi is providing many medical facilities while Tirumala Tirupathi Trust offers education facilities at a reasonable cost. With the call from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad many temple trusts offered their contribution for Uttarakhand reconstruction. This collective and humanitarian management of wealth has been part of Indian way of life. State need not muddle with it.
This intent of monetisation clearly poses questions of autonomy and accountability of the Reserve Bank of India. The same RBI which had denied Islamic bank in 2011 has granted it recently in Kerala. It was not possible without the government intervention. The former Governor of RBI D Subbarao has time and again indicated the need for respecting the space of the RBI in devising monetary policy. With another man of International Monetary Fund (IMF) tag seating at the helm of RBI affairs, we cannot expect anything better.
The fall of rupee and increasing deficit is an outcome of corruption and erroneous import policy. Individuals invest in gold because they neither trust the government nor do they get sufficient returns on other investments. The deficit is higher because of higher imports of consumer products and systematic killing of indigenous production techniques and facilities. Instead of working on correcting the fundamentals of economy, government is blaming the Hindu society for gold imports. The rate of gold import was the same when the exposed ‘honest’ mask of the government was trying to tell the ‘India story’ along with his Oxford and Cambridge lieutenants. The problem of oil imports is not at all addressed by the government. The corruption and black money is conveniently hidden. Government attempts to buy votes through populist schemes have become ‘social’ face of sonianomics. Government should take this opportunity to correct the fundamentals of Indian economy by concentrating on indigenous models of development, rather than transplanting the exported one.