Andhra Pradesh orders probe into lapses in transport of Tirupati temple gold

Newly wed Bollywood couple Abhishek Bachchan, and Aishwarya Rai, right, offer prayers at the Venkateshwara temple at Tirupati, 156 kilometers (98 miles) north west of Chennai, India, Sunday, April 22, 2007. Rai shot to fame when she was crowned Miss World in 1994 and is the brand ambassador for leading cosmetic companies. Bachchan is a popular romantic hero and comes from a famous Bollywood movie family, his father Amitabh, seen behind, is an Indian movie icon and his mother Jaya is also a famous actress. (AP Photo)

Amaravati:  The Andhra Pradesh government Sunday ordered an inquiry into alleged lapses in release and transportation of the gold belonging to Tirupati temple in the wake of seizure of 1,381 kg of gold by the Election Commission in Tamil Nadu four days ago.

Chief Secretary L.V. Subrahmanyam asked Special Chief Secretary, Revenue, Manmohan Singh to find out “the specific lapses, if any,” on the part of Punjab National Bank (PNB) and Triumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of the richest Hindu temple.

Singh was asked to rush to Tirupati, conduct an inquiry into the alleged lapses and submit a report with critical appreciation on or before April 23.

He was told to see if there were written instructions issued by the Executive Officer, TTD and what was the role of TTD’s Vigilance Wing. The officer will also report on what special care and monitoring the Vigilance Wing has to take, said an official release.

The transport of the gold from the PNB’s Chennai branch triggered a controversy as the bullion, along with the truck carrying it, was seized by the Election Commission officials in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvallur on April 17, a day before polling in that state.

The gold, said to be worth over Rs 400 crore, was being brought to the temple treasury in Tirupati.

The TTD initially denied that the gold seized in Tiruvallur belonged to it. The Election Commission later released the gold after the TTD produced relevant documents.

The incident led to questions on the security of the temple gold. Political parties and other organisations criticised the TTD for not providing proper security and the documentation to bring back the gold to the temple treasury and sought probe into the alleged lapses.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Andhra Pradesh unit alleged that the incident had hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus and demanded probe by the Union Finance Ministry.

BJP leader Bhanu Prakash, a former member of the TTD trust board, said the incident tarnished the name of the temple body across the country. He alleged that the PNB did not follow the procedure as the TTD was not aware that the gold was being brought to Tirupati.

The pure gold bars were deposited by the TTD with the bank in 2016.