Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Foreign currency coins donated to India’s richest temple will soon be sold

  • The coins are being sold at their actual cost to the organisation called Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu (APNRT) Society.
  • The value of the coins which is about ₹10-15 million and they were mostly from the US and the UK.
  • APNRT plans to sell coins worth $20, in small sachets made with sacred cloth to the Telugu NRIs.

India’s richest temple, the Lord Venkateswara temple in Andhra Pradesh, is about to sell 60 tonnes of foreign coins it has received as donations to a Telugu NRI organisation.

Known as the Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu (APNRT) Society, the organisation was formed with the AP government’s support. It has proposed to purchase the stock at actual cost from the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which manages the shrine.

While TTD is able to exchange foreign currency notes with the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) for Indian rupees, it becomes difficult to swap the coins because of their small value. Though TTD reached out to the RBI authorities repeatedly for this, it has not yielded any favourable results.

The temple had earlier planned to dispatch the coins back to their home counties but the transportation cost was turning out to be more than the value of the coins which is about ₹10-15 million.

It was then that Ravi Kumar Vemuri, the chairman of APNRT, proposed to buy them.

Vemuri wants to commercialise the ‘ceremonial value’ of the coins. All coins are “sacred” in the Hindu tradition as they are used for all pujas, rituals and occasions. These are more so because they are from the Hundi or the cash chest of the lord. Therefore, the organisation believes that there will be a huge demand for them among the Telugu NRIs.

APRNT plans to sell coins worth $20, in small sachets made with sacred cloth. Any NRI who asks for them will receive them through international courier services like Garudavega but they will have to bear the shipping charges, which will be around ₹2,000.

APRNT has about 85,000 members spread across 111 countries. When the idea was floated on the WhatsApp group, the members were enthusiastic about it and offered to buy the sachets too.

Earlier, the organisation proposed to take only the US and the UK currency, since they were in a huge quantity. Besides those, the temple also had about eight tonnes of Malaysian coins. TTD was planning to auction them to devotees from Tamil Nadu. However, that would mean selling them at a cheaper price. Later, APNRT offered to take these coins at the original cost as well.

The proposal officially called ‘Seven-Hills-to-Seven-Continents’, is still awaiting a formal approval from the TTD trust board after which the APNRT will begin implementing its plan.

This is not the first time that temple is selling away the foreign currency donated to it. It had sold another 35 tonnes of those back in 2016 and that lot had been mostly from Malaysia, Singapore and the US.

The story first appeared in The Business Insider India

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