Lord Balaji at Tirupati literally has a forex problem!
The temple is well known world over for the amount of donations that it receives. And looks like NRIs and foreigners, when they visit the temple, make donations in the currency of their country. And we are not talking about a sack full of forex … it is 60 tonnes of foreign currency.
Mind you these are all coins as notes can be exchanged with the RBI for Indian rupee. Coins cannot be exchanged due to their small value and the temple authorities have time and again tried to negotiate with the RBI but to no avail. The temple also thought, at one point, that it will send the coins back to the counties of their origin but transportation cost turned out to be more than the value of the coins!
The estimated value of the foreign coins could be around Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.5 crore. Now that is indeed loose change for the temple!
An organisation of Telugu non-resident Indians (NRIs) formed with the Andhra Pradesh government’s support – AP Non-Resident Telugu (APNRT) Society. It has now offered to purchase the stock from Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) at actual cost.
Cashing in on the religious sentiment behind the coins, they would be packed in small sachets made with sacred cloth and market them. Each sachet will have coins worth 20 US dollars and will be sent to the NRIs through international courier services like Garudavega. Those ordering the coins will have to bear the transport cost - the approximate value of a 20 dollars pack including shipping charges would be around Rs 2,000. And there are takers!
The logic behind this – these coins are considered to be sacred as they come from the Hundi of the Lord. The main target audience would be NRI Telugus. The proposal is awaiting a formal approval from the TTD trust board.
Now this is what we call cashing in on the religious sentiments!