Not a gram of gold is missing, says Devaswom Board amid HC audit of Sabarimala vault

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Sabarimala: Another row over the Sabarimala temple is building up, this time over missing precious metals that were offered by devotees. A High Court audit team will today try to assess how 40 kg of gold and 100 kg of silver went missing from the strong room of the temple located at Aranmula, near Chengannur town in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district.

The HC team will inspect the strong room and go through the registers at the executive office of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB).

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran has sought explanation from TDB president A Padmakumar. The TDB, however, insists no gold or silver is missing.

Padmakumar is set to respond to the minister today. "The allegations are baseless. Not even a gram of gold is missing. Officers concerned will have to answer if books are not proper.” Padmakumar stated.

Kadakampally Surendran
Devaswom Minister, Kadakampally Surendran. File photo.

The discrepancy in the registers came to light with the retirement of a TDB accountant.

When he complained of not receiving pension after retirement, the board found it was because he had failed to hand over TDB documents to his successor. The board gave the same alibi in the High Court when the accountant took to the legal route. The local fund audit department, asked by the HC, searched the Aranmula vault in 2017 and found discrepancies in the stock and books on gold and silver.

The hundi register shows all gold and silver received during Mandalam-Makara Vilakku season were handed over to the then accountant and kept at the Aranmula strong room. But the audit report says these documents are not clear. The collection from hundis is kept in the strong room by the accountant in the presence of Sabarimala assistant executive officer.

The HC team will compare hundi documents and strong room registers today.

"The retired employee cannot be paid pensions until he performs his duties," Padmakumar added.

The minister, meanwhile, said he does not know what went wrong. "Anyone found guilty will be punished. Gold and silver will be henceforth kept under greater security for which digital solutions will be sought," Kadakampally said.

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