New Delhi : Demonetisation has made India’s temples significantly richer as hundi deposits have seen an upsurge with ‘sin’ currencies after November 8 when the government spiked 500- and 1,000-rupee notes.

These notes are still being put into the hundis, or donation boxes, as only a few of these temples are strictly discouraging or prohibiting people from offering them.

Hundi deposits, which are anonymous donations, have increased over the last fortnight even though religious places per se have not been provided an exemption to accept the old notes.

But Finance Ministry officials told IANS that the cash deposited by temples from the hundis will not come under the tax scanner. “For temples, there is an exemption that if the money is from the donation boxes, we will not ask questions. There is no limit on that (deposits),” an official told IANS.

The charitable trusts that maintain the temples will, however, have to keep proper records of devotees directly giving them donations.

An official of the richest temple of the country, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) in Andhra Pradesh, told IANS that TTD was “depositing these (old) notes in banks as the government has already clarified that the cash deposited from offerings made by devotees at temples will not be taxed”.

Temple officials had, before demonetisation, told IANS that the hundi collection this fiscal is expected to be around Rs 1,000 crore ($146 million) out of the total revenue of Rs 2,600 crore. This target may be crossed following demonetisation.

The famed Durga temple of Vijayawada has seen its hundi donations increase by over Rs 1 crore after demonetisation.

According to its managing committee, the temple has received Rs 2.89 crore in the current month so far, which is already Rs 1 crore higher than the usual collection. “These include 2,941 Rs 1,000 notes and 15,723 Rs 500 notes. The devotees also dropped 48 new notes of Rs 2,000 in the hundis.”

The TTD temple in Chennai also witnessed a sudden spike in hundi offerings. An official said the normal hundi collection is around Rs 1 crore per month, but post-demonetisation the collections have spiked to over Rs 2 crore with several bundles of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes being found in the donation boxes.

The temple has not put up any notice asking the public not to offer the demonetised currencies.

At the Palani Murugan Temple in Tamil Nadu an official told IANS that the hundi collections will be deposited in the bank and demonetisation was not an issue.

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