Too much gold buying is worrying the government
The government has no designs on temple gold to fight its current financial crisis, the finance ministry today clarified, after the central bank's recent note asking temples to assess their gold had religious groups fuming.
Union minister of state for finance, JD Seelam, said there may have been an inquiry, but god's gold is the very last resort.
"We need to take a call at the highest level. It needs consensus. Only if it is required, all those options we will weigh. I don't think we will need to that,'' Mr Seelam told NDTV.
The minister however reiterated Union finance minister P.Chidambaram's appeal to people to put off buying gold for one year, to reduce the gold import bill.
He said citizens should heed the appeal, even for occasions like 'Dhanteras', traditionally thought by Hindus to be an important day to buy gold.
"They already have sufficient gold. They can use it. If everybody uses their own gold, it is more than sufficient,'' the minister said.
The Reserve Bank of India's letter earlier this month to temples across India sparked a controversy as religious groups saw it a precursor to buying gold from temples.
Indian temples have up to 35,000 tonnes of gold, according to estimates. Kerala's Padmanabhaswamy and Guruvayoor temples and Tirupati's Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh are considered among the richest temples.
But experts say too much gold is taking the gloss off the economy, and is one of the main contributors to the widening current account deficit, or the difference between the inflow and outflow of foreign currency.
India, said to be the world's top consumer of gold, is said to import upto 1,000 tonnes of gold annually at a cost of some 48 billion dollars.