The Tirumalai Temple

The Reserve Bank of India has told the management of Tirumala Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh that the money deposited in the temple’s hundis cannot be exchanged for new notes.

The move was in response to a letter by the temple management asking if it was possible to convert the old notes into valid cash.

“We have told them that there is no way for them to deposit or exchange the money,” said an RBI official.

On Nov 8, the Indian government had demonetized all notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 and given an opportunity for all individuals and institutions to deposit or exchange their cash by Dec 30.

However, instead of depositing the money in banks, many Indians deposited it in the hundis (a kind of vessel with a slit on top) kept in the Tirupati Balaji temple — arguably India’s largest center of pilgrimage.

According to D Sambasiva Rao, the chief executive of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, over Rs 4 cr were put into these hundis in January and February this year. It is believed that giving cash to temples helps people get rid of their sins, while also helping the temple establishment.

Under Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act of 2017, anyone possessing more than 10 scrapped notes is liable for a fine (in new currency).

The new law allows only Indians who were outside the country during the window of exchange to get their old notes swapped at present.

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