VINITA DESHMUKH | 17/09/2012
To a RTI query by this writer asking about the list of gift items loaned specifically to Pratibha Patil along with the evaluated price of each item, Rashtrapati Bhavan says information not necessary as it is a ‘temporary’ arrangement
The Rashtrapati Bhavan has officially admitted through a RTI (Right to Information) reply to this writer that “An MoU was signed on 15th June 2012 between Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Vidya Bharti Shaikshnik Mandal, Amravati, for display of 155 artifacts/mementos on a purely temporary basis, which in any case, cease to be operative with effect from 15th June 2013 and all the artifacts presently on loan shall be returned to the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum thereafter” but refuses to divulge detailed information on the list of artifacts transferred to Ms Patil’s museum.
The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the President’s Secretariat takes this ‘temporary’ arrangement as an excuse to not provide the list of artifacts given to Ms Patil to display it in her museum in her hometown, Amravati, along with their individual costs and countries that they were gifted from.
The RTI application filed by me on 3 August 2012, specifically asked the PIO of the President’s Secretariat, “List of gift items loaned specifically to Ms Pratibha Patil along with the evaluated price of each item; from which country did each gift item come from; what was the purpose of her visit when she received each of the gift item.” The reply is “do not arise in view of the answer at (3) above” (which is she would be returning artifacts by 15 June 2013 as the agreement would cease by then.
The RTI reply interestingly suggests that it was President Abdul Kalam who started the trend of moving out gifts received in the capacity of being President of India. The CPIO Saurabh Vjay states in his reply dated 6 September 2012, “No such requests have been made by any former President of India. It is, however, stated that in the past, 36 artifacts were handed over during the Presidency of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam for being displayed in the Brahmos Centre, New Delhi.” This reply came to the writer’s query under RTI seeking “copies of official requests made by Presidents of India for loaning of gifts from 1990 onwards. Provide copies of all such correspondence within the President of India office as well as between President of India office and the relevant district/city authority where the President of India may have resided or the place where she/he wants to display the loaned gift items, form 1990 onwards.”
The RTI reply also states that “no such rules and regulations are available for loaning of gift items received by the President of India. This was in reply to my query, “Copies of Rules/GRs/amendments/correspondence for rules and amended rules regarding gift articles and souvenirs which are received by Presidents of India from other countries and within the country; Copy of rules and regulations for ‘loaning’ official gifts received by President of India to presidents on their retirement or loaned to any other organisation.”
To the query, “How many gift items in total does the ‘Tosha Khana’ of the President’s office have at the moment and what is the total amount in value?” CPIO Saurabh Vijay states in his reply that “as per our records there are about 2,500 gifts in ‘Tosha Khana’ of the President’s Secretariat and as regards the value of these items, no such records are available in the Art section.” This is indeed shocking for, as per the ministry of home affairs, any contribution in the form of gifts received by President of India or other dignitaries must be valued within 30 days of receipt of gift.
It may be recalled that a museum is being specially set up in Pratibha Patil’s hometown by the family trust, Vidya Bharti Shaikshnik Mandal, run by her politician-son Rajendra Shekhawat.
The writer is filing a first appeal to the President’s Secretariat since the information received is inadequate.
Read the previous article here: Pratibha Patil’s Museum: Gifts received by VVIPs from foreign countries can be purchased by them but can they be loaned?
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.)