Probe ordered into Kedarnath temple gold plating controversy
Dehradun, June 26
Uttarakhand state government has ordered a probe into the alleged gold scam at famous Hindu shrine of Kedarnath situated in Garhwal Himalayas following a major controversy and slugfest between main opposition party Congress and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Uttarakhand Tourism, Cultuare and Religious Affairs Minister Satpal Maharaj announced a probe to be led by Garhwal Commissioner in which technical experts and goldsmiths would be part into the Kedarnath gold plating issue.
A controversy surfaced when a senior priest of the Kedarnath temple made an allegation in a video which went viral about disappearance and replacement of gold plates donated by a devotee with brass plates. Some other video clips that went viral showed workers with cans that had “gold wash” printed on the lids and showed workers examining the gold plated material at the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
This erupted in a major controversy with main opposition Congress party targeting the Badri Kedar temple Committee (BKTC) and the state BJP government on the issue. Ganesh Godiyal, a former legislator and former Uttarakhand Congress Chief, who had also headed the temple committee during Congress regime alleged an organised tax evasion in the gold plating work of the sanctum sanctorum of the Kedarnath temple. He questioned the temple committee for providing a tax exemption certificate to the donor without checking the quality of the gold donated.
He further accused the temple committee of giving a tax exemption certificate to the donor businessman in lieu of donating 23kg of gold, despite the quality of gold being in question even earlier.
The Congress leader said that during his tenure , a businessman donor offered to donate 500kg of gold in exchange for an income tax exemption certificate. The businessman purportedly told Godiyal that he had given 50kg of gold to the temple committee in 2005 but had to bear the loss as he didn’t get a tax exemption certificate.
He further said that on checking at Badrinath temple, he found that the gold-plating on the outer pillars of the sanctum sanctorum had turned into brass and requested the donor to donate gold certified by the government-owned Minerals and Metals Trading Corporation (MMTC). Ganesh Godiyal said stated that, upon being confronted with the condition, the businessman withdrew his statement.
He asked that when the color of the gold had once faded in 2005, how did the temple committee give a tax exemption certificate to the donor this time without checking the gold.
On the other hand, Ajendra Ajay, a RSS functionary who is President of the Badri Kadar temple Committee (BKTC) said that permission was sought from the state government for the donor to gold-encrust the sanctum sanctorum, which was done under the supervision of the Archeological Survey of India.
The ruling BJP and the BKTC have denied all the allegations made by Congress terming these as a conspiracy against the government.
The BJP said that the same donor had gold plated the pillars of the Badrinath temple in 2005 and had donated gold during the Congress regime but the Congress party had no objection back then.
The BJP said that the whole work of gold plating at Kedarnath temple was worth Rs. 14 crore but the Congress is falsely claiming that the work amounted to over a thousand crores in a bid to tarnish the image of BJP.
The Congress party has rejected the probe by an official and demanded a probe by a sitting high court Judge. Manish khanduri, a senior Congress leader charged that the state government has been trying to skirt the issue.