Unnao: The government today starts digging for treasure in a village in Uttar Pradesh. The excavation, which may take at least a month, is triggered by a local sadhu or sage who says he dreamt that 1000 tonnes of gold are buried under the ruins of a palace.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition that asks judges to monitor the exercise. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) suggests that if the gold is found, it may go missing, and the court should therefore supervise the process.
Yogi Swami Shobhan Sarkar says the gold he dreamt of belonged to a nineteenth-century ruler, Rao Ram Bux Singh. He wrote to the Reserve Bank of India, suggesting that the government use the treasure to help India recover from its economic slowdown.
The Archaeological Survey of India has sent a team of archaeologists to the village of Daundia Khera in Uttar Pradesh. They plan to dig two 100-square-metre blocks beside the palace.
Indians buy as much as 2.3 tonnes of gold, on average, every day - the weight of a small elephant - and what they don't give to the gods is mostly hoarded.
That is costing the economy dear, since India has few gold mines. Gold imports totalled $54 billion in the year ending on March 31, 2013, a major factor in swelling the current account deficit and undermining the rupee.
Swami Sarkar's dream haul of 1000 tonnes would be enough to replace all of India's imports for a year and would be worth at least $40 billion.