CHENNAI: More than 1,000 idols from 387 temples in Tamil Nadu were stolen in last 25 years despite enhanced security measures, the state government has informed the Madras High Court.

Of the over 1,200 theft cases reported, only 56 had been solved and the possession of stolen items were restored only in 18 of them, the government said.

The details were stated in a counter-affidavit filed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department, which administers several temples, before Justice R Mahadevan, who is hearing petitions connected with idol thefts.

HR and CE Commissioner of R Jaya said that according to records available with the department from 1992 to 2017, it was reported by temple authorities that 372 stone idols and 832 icons belonging to 387 temples were found stolen.

In cases involving theft of 385 icons/idols from 33 temples, complaints had been closed with the items being declared as not traceable by the police department, it added.

The counter-affidavit also said that 38,635 religious institutions, including 36,595 temples, were under the control of the department.

It said strong rooms had been constructed in 11,512 temples to safeguard valuables including the idols and jewels and all of them were equipped with CCTV cameras, burglar alarms, tell-tale clocks, iron grill gates and inner lock system.

Security personnel had also been deployed. High-security icon centres numbering 34 had been constructed in select temples for protecting the idols, and 19 of them had already started functioning, the counter-affidavit mentioned.

The rest would become operational in another three months, the commissioner said and added 3.36 lakh idols belonging to 31,000 temples had been photographed and the images were uploaded on the department’s web portal.

An Integrated Temple Management System was also being developed and it was expected to be in place within a year.

She also said the department had sought the assistance of the IIT Madras to purchase closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) of good resolution which could help prevent theft of ancient idols from temples across the state, as the existing ones were not working satisfactorily.

The court had last year ordered transfer of all the cases pending on the file of various courts in the state, prosecuted by the Idol Wing, to the file of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kumbakonam, for speedy disposal on a day-to-day basis.

It had also overruled the transfer of A G Ponn Manickavel out of the Idol Wing police and directed the officer to head the wing again.

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