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An online petition opposing the TN government’s decision to melt temple jewels garners over 40,000 signatures

It was around the beginning of the month of October that the Tamil Nadu government had taken the decision to appoint a three-judge panel to monitor the task of melting jewellery received as donations in temples into gold bars.

This was set to be implemented upon the 36,400 temples possessing around 2,000 kg of gold, that come under the Tamil Nadu government’s Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department and was set to start with 47 Grade A temples in the first phase and then cover all the temples in phases.

According to the government, the amount would then be deposited in nationalized banks, and the funds would then be used to maintain the temples.

The decision to melt the temple gold was met with discontent from people and religious organizations. An online petition addressed to Chief Minister of the State MK Stalin and other ministers under him was started on the platform Change.org, which read “Tamil Nadu CM: Don’t Melt Temple Gold:# Temple Jewels, not government property” and says that the secular government does not have any role to decide which jewels are to be melted. The petition has garnered more than 40,000 signatures.

The petition also cites a Madras High Court suo motu judgement from June this year, which states that gold audit for temples had not been done for the last 60 years and that there has been no inventory and centralized 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 government rush to melt the gold is disregarding the judgement hence.

The government on the other hand maintains the ground that the melting of gold is nothing new. During an earlier hearing, it was stated that 500 kg of gold has been melted since 1977 and deposited in banks, which earned a revenue of Rs 11 crore to the State exchequer.

The Madras High Court in a judgement on Thursday restrained the government from melting the ‘unused gold’ till trustees are appointed to the relevant temples. The interim order is passed on the petitions moved by M Saravanan and A V Gopala Krishnan challenging the decision.

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