Controversy is brewing at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram after an audit report revealed that gold worth Rs 186 crore has gone missing from the temple. In the report submitted to the Supreme Court in March, former CAG Vinod Rai recommended a committee be formed to probe the irregularities.
According to the report, the temple did not have a system of ascertaining the weight and purity of gold and silver articles before handing them over to the contractors for melting and purification for ornamentation works.
The report notes that till June 2002, gold pots bearing numbers 1 to 1,000 were used for various festivals. But on April 1, 2011, a pot taken out for a festival had the number 1988. This would mean there were 1988 gold pots present in the various cellars of the temple says the report.
After melting 822 gold pots for ornamentation works, the report states that there should have been 1166 pots remaining. But the number of gold pots which were assigned to the committee were only 397, which means that 769 golds pots went missing.
The report also notes that these pots would have weighed 776kg in gold or approximately Rs 186 crore.
The report also states that out of 22 silver bars one is missing, each weighing 35 kg or approximately worth Rs 14 lakh per bar.
The report was prepared for the period between 2004 and 2014.
What the royal family is saying
In its first ever reaction to Vinod Rai’s report, the royal family has accused Vinod Rai of not consulting any temple authority before filing his report. A statement given to The News Minute says, “Vinod rai's report is purely based on the numbers written on the gold pots. No explanation was sought from any of the executive members of the temple or treasurer in this regard. The credibility of the report cannot be ascertained and the royal family does not even know the basis of this report. Mr Rai never recorded the family’s version. The family is pained to know that the report was reported in such a manner, even though the court has said it will give its verdict only after listening to the family's version.”
A member of the royal family on terms of anonymity told The News Minute, “The numbers are all written in old Malayalam script. Mr Rai has not seen these pots himself. How does he know that the serial numbers were meant to be continuous?
Jayasekharan Nair, the Executive officer at the temple told TNM that the report assumes that only gold pots were numbered and does not take into account whether other temple possessions were also numbered along with the pots.
Lakshmanan Potti, the Muthalpadi or Treasurer of the temple said, “I don’t know about what happened in the temple a few years ago, but taking out this much gold is impossible.”
Saying that they were unaware of the theft, the administrative committee of the temple said in a press statement that they would move the Supreme Court seeking a probe. The statement also says that no verification of inventories was carried out between the period of December 2015 and April 2016.
What LDF says
Unlike other temples in the state, the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple does not come under the Kerala government-controlled Devaswom Board. The Travancore Royal Family are custodians of the temple.
Reacting to the report, Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that the government would take necessary measures after verifying the report.
“The government can decide its stand on the matter only after thoroughly going through the report. We have decided to move the Supreme Court asking for access to the report,” Surendran told TNM.
In 2009, a former IPS officer TP Sundararajan petitioned the Kerala High Court seeking that the government take over the management of the Padmanabhaswamy temple. Sundararajan had also appealed to the court seeking an inventory of the temple’s treasures.
In April 2014, the Supreme Court entrusted the administration of the temple to a five-member committee. The apex court also said former CAG Vinod Rai would undertake the audit of the temple properties, assets and accounts.