Years of neglect was telling on a five-foot-tall Gandhi statue at a park near the Four-Road junction at Panruti. Dust had accumulated on the layers of paintwork, haphazardly done in bursts of administrative energy. When the civic body officials swung into action to give the park a much-needed facelift, little did they know that amid the thick outgrowth of weeds was hidden a treasure trove.
The statue that braved the elements for over six decades was found to be made of Panchaloha - an amalgamation of five precious metals and alloys - worth several crores of rupees, with gold comprising around 25 per cent of the statue's 200-odd kg weight.
Sources said that the statue was installed in the park around six decades ago, when the present Panruti municipality was only a village panchayat. Apart from the few and far between maintenance, the park was largely ignored for nearly 60 years until Panruti municipal chairman Paneer Selvam decided to renovate the recreation spot for `30 lakh.
Around 10 days ago, the statue was relocated from its mandapam and the area was given a fresh coat of paint and patchwork. With Gandhi Jayanti approaching, the municipality engineers felt the need for a fresh coat of paint on the statue.
While the painters were scrapping off the old coat, they reached the surface and were surprised to see it glittering. On information, municipal chairman Paneer Selvam rushed to the spot with a team of goldsmiths, headed by a jeweller S V Vairakannu, who confirmed the statue to be made of Panchaloha.
“The statue weighs around 200 kg. The team said the proportion of gold in the statue might be 25 per cent. If true, there could be around 40 kg gold, making the statue worth several crores," a municipal official told Express.
As the news spread, traders and residents thronged the park to see the statue that they hitherto did not even spare a glance for. Paneer Selvan and municipal commissioner Perumal have decided to spruce up the security by installing CCTV cameras, iron gates and appointing security guards.