Until 1990, the Gold Control Act forbade the private holding of gold bars in India. There was physical investment in smuggled ten tola bars, but it was limited and often amounted to keeping a few bars ready to be made into jewellery for a family wedding. Gold investment essentially was in 22 carat jewellery.
Reserve Bank of India
Since 1990, investment in small bars, both imported ten tolas and locally-made small bars, which have proliferated from local refineries, has increased substantially. GFMS estimate that investment has exceeded 100 tonnes (3.2 million oz) in some years, although it is hard to segregate true investment from stocks held by the 16,000 or more gold dealers spread across India. Certainly gold has been used to conceal wealth, especially during the mid-1990s, when the local rupee price increased steadily.
It was also augmented in 1998 when over 40 tonnes (1.3 million oz) of gold from bonds originally issued by the Reserve Bank of India were restituted to the public.
In the cities, however, gold is having to compete with the stock market, investment in internet industries, and a wide range of consumer goods. In the rural areas 22 carat jewellery remains the basic investment.
The Gold Deposit Scheme
The government announced a new initiative in its 1999/2000 budget to tap the hoard of private gold in India by permitting commercial banks to take gold deposits of bars, coins or jewellery against payment of interest. Interest levels can be set by each bank, and deposits must be for three to seven years. Interest and any capital gains on the gold will be exempt from tax. The banks can lend the gold to local fabricators or sell it in the Indian market or to local banks. However, the depositor has to declare the origin of the gold, so that metal bought illegally to hide wealth cannot be deposited. The State Bank of India was the first to accept deposits. To date, the amount of gold collected under this scheme (less than 10 tonnes or 0.32 million oz) has fallen well short of the 100 tonnes (3.2 million oz) that was mentioned when it was launched.
See also: India Markets Introduction; Evolution of Modern Gold Market in India