The apex bank has ordered 16 nationalised banks — where SSST has accounts — to accept small change offered in the temple coffers by millions of devotees annually.
“The RBI General Manager (Issue) K. Kamalakannan had convened the meeting to hammer out a solution to this crisis affecting us since the past over one year,” SSST Chief Accounts Officer B.B. Ghorpade told IANS.
He said that on an average, the coffers in the Saibaba Samadhi Temple and the surrounding complex cough out more than 1 crore coins worth around Rs 4 crore annually.
In denominations of Rs 1, 2, 5 and 10, the coins weigh several tonnes, which have to be counted, accounted and then deposited with the various banks where the SSST holds accounts.
Since the past year or so, most banks have been refusing to collect the huge quantity of coins on grounds of lack of storage space, difficulty in counting, transporting and putting them back into public circulation.
“Since the past three months, we have been depositing them with banks in turns whenever they had space to accommodate them. But even then the problems continued,” Ghorpade rued.
In a via-media solution, the SSST has now agreed to allot 8-10 high-security strongrooms in one of the temple premises to the banks for storing the coins.
“We will give them the rooms, approximately 400 sq feet each, with CCTVs, security guards, special grills etc., where the banks can store our coins till they are able to dispose them off,” Ghorpade revealed.
Previously, small shopkeepers, toll plazas, public bus services and other entities used to exchange notes with coins in bulk from the nationalised banks.
However, with toll plazas either scrapped or going digital, besides people taking to cashless transactions or online purchases, the demand for coins has drastically reduced, flooding the markets with coins of all denominations, Ghorpade explained.
Ranked among the top 10 richest temple trusts in the country, the SSST in Shirdi attracts over 10 million devotees from all over the world who donate over Rs 500 crore every year.
The temple coffers alone collect around Rs 4 crore in coins and another Rs 150 crore in currency notes, besides valuable items of gold and silver etc. every year, but the collection chests are opened and offloaded every Tuesday and Friday.
Of the total income of more than Rs 500 crore, the SSST ploughs back most of it to various social-educational-charitable activities, augmenting the facilities for the pilgrims to the temple and developing infrastructure in and around the small town of Shirdi, Ghorpade said.
Revered by people of all faiths, the temple town of Shirdi is connected by air, rail and road. It is located in Ahmednagar district, around 235 km north-east of Mumbai.