In his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pressing for the gold hunt in Unnao last year, Union minister Charan Das Mahant argued that finding the treasure would pull corporates away from the BJP to the Congress, and ensure double-digit growth for India.
“Shift in attitude of corporate world from the present blatant pro-Modi towards the Congress”, “stronger rupee”, “double digit growth” and “lower current account deficit” were among the “likely impacts” of finding the gold, the MoS for agriculture wrote to Singh on October 8, 2013.
Before writing to the PM, Mahant had also written to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan.
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In his letter to Singh, accessed by The Indian Express through RTI, Mahant sought to draw the PM’s “urgent attention” to what he said would be a “game changing scenario” for the economy. He assured Singh that he had visited Unnao twice along with “His Holiness” Shobhan Sarkar, the religious guru who allegedly “dreamt” about the buried gold in Daundiya Khera village.
The PMO forwarded the letter to the secretary of the Ministry of Culture. Excavation at the village began on October 18, and was stopped on November 2 without any success.
According to information provided by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a budget of Rs 4 lakh had been allocated for the project, Rs 2.78 lakh of which was spent during the 16-day dig.
Mahant ended his letter to the PM saying: “I earnestly request you kindly to direct the ASI to start excavation work before October 13, 2013 as per request of Shri Shobhan Sarkar and also kindly convene a high level meeting of Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance, Reserve Bank of India, Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Mines to chalk out a comprehensive action plan for the safe and secured recovery of the Golden treasure with full security measures for the benefit of the nation at the earliest.”
Sharmila Mary Joseph K, director in the PMO, forwarded the letter on October 15, 2013 to the secretary, Ministry of Mines, for comments, and asked “whether any excavation is planned of the aforementioned site, and if so, when”.
Along with his one-page letter, Mahant enclosed a three-page note, claiming he was in possession of the full facts. In the section ‘The Likely Impact’, Mahant said, “On the addition of this gold, India will move from the 11th position (557 tonnes) to the 6th (1,600 tonnes) in the world in terms of its gold holding.”
Mahant, a Congress MP from Korba in Chhattisgarh, lists impressive academic qualifications: “M.Sc., M.A., LL.B., Ph.D.”.
Before writing to the PM, the minister had written to Rahul Gandhi on September 23, 2013, asking for a “joint team of officials of RBI, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Mines with full security measures to unearth” the treasure.
On September 27, he wrote to Rahul again, and also to the finance minister and RBI governor, asking them to “take necessary action”.
On September 29, Mahant wrote to the ministries of Mines and Culture, in response to which the Geological Survey of India (GSI) conducted the study, which indicated presence of gold.
In its justification for the excavation, the ASI cited the GSI’s report of October 3-4, 2013 which mentioned a “prominent non-magnetic anomalous zone (10-20 metre wide occurring at 5-20 metre depth) indicative of possible gold, silver and/or some alloys etc may be tested by excavation for further interest at the specified site”.
In a confidential note prepared for Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch, ASI argued that “there are several instances when even uneducated villagers and labourers have informed about location and objects of sites which have proved to be great discoveries after archeological investigations”.