Tirupati, April 22 (IANS): The Sri Venkateswara Temple at Tirumala here owns 9,259 kg of gold deposited with various banks and in its treasury, a senior temple official said on Monday.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of the country’s richest temple, has 5,387 kg of gold with the State Bank of India and 1,938 kg of gold with the Indian Overseas Bank under gold deposit schemes.
TTD Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal said the Punjab National Bank (PNB) returned 1,381 kg of gold on April 20 as the three-year scheme had reached maturity.
In addition, the TTD treasury has 553 kg mixed gold, comprising small jewellery.
A day after the Andhra Pradesh government ordered an inquiry into the alleged lapses into the release and transportation of 1,381 kg gold in the wake of its seizure by the Election Commission in Tamil Nadu, Singhal told a news conference that the PNB had total responsibility for the gold till delivering it to the TTD’s treasury.
The gold was seized in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvallur district on April 17 when it was being brought back from PNB’s branch in Chennai to the TTD treasury in Tirupati.
Singhal denied media reports that the TTD showed documents to the Election Commission claiming ownership of the gold.
He made it clear that they were in no way concerned with the security and transportation of the gold as it was entirely the responsibility of the PNB.
After the seizure of the gold, the Income Tax department asked the TTD to send an official in connection with the investigations. The TTD official only informed the IT that PNB was supposed to deliver the gold at TTD treasury on April 18.
The gold seizure a day before the elections in Tamil Nadu triggered a row with TTD initially denying that the gold belonged to it.
Singhal defended the stand taken by the temple body. “It is the TTD’s gold when it reaches the treasury. How do we know how much gold the truck was carrying and what was its transportation route?” he asked.
On the criticism for transportation of the gold in the midst of elections, he dismissed this as coincidence. He said the maturity date was known when the gold was deposited with the PNB in 2016.
He said TTD had written to PNB on March 27 that gold deposit will be reaching maturity on April 18 and asked it to deliver the gold at treasury along with the interest (70 kg gold).
He said under the gold deposit gold scheme, the banks are paid one per cent commission and 1.5 per cent handling charges which includes gold purity testing, transportation, storage and other costs.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary L.V. Subrahmanyam on Sunday ordered an inquiry in the wake of gold seizure. He asked Special Chief Secretary, Revenue, Manmohan Singh, to find out the specific lapses, if any, on the part of the PNB and the TTD and submit a report on or before April 23.
The inquiry officer was asked to see if there were written instructions issued by the Executive Officer, TTD, and what was the role of TTD’s Vigilance wing. The officer will also report on what special care and monitoring the Vigilance wing of TTD has to take.