The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chorus for duty-free Ferraris

Mumbai, Aug. 14: Fellow celebrities believe Sachin Tendulkar can have his duty-free Ferrari but could they have one, please, too'

“The rule should be relaxed for everyone, so that we all should have our Ferraris,” says Jackie Shroff. The actor tones down his criticism by adding: “He is a national hero. He has delighted everybody.”

“Why on earth should the government be waiving the duty' The state can’t indulge in such charity,” says director Mahesh Bhatt. “Why should the people bear his cost'”

The batsman was gifted a Ferrari by Fiat which makes the car last year. The car was imported and handed over to Sachin on August 9, after the Centre granted him a waiver of Rs 1.13 crore as duty. Yesterday, the high court issued a suo motu notice to Sachin to appear before it on August 19. The Ferrari was gifted to Sachin for equalling Sir Don Bradman’s record of 29 centuries.

“I could have understood if it was a trophy,” says Shiv Sena leader Pramod Navalkar, known also as Mumbai’s culture czar. “If this is allowed, anyone may go ahead and show property bought or acquired abroad as a ‘gift’ and be exempted,” he adds.

“Sachin has the money. Why does he need the exemption'” Navalkar demands.

He says the Audi given to Ravi Shastri or the car that was won by Aishwarya Rai in the Miss World pageant were awards, not a “gift” like Sachin’s.

“Sachin should pay the duty. Otherwise his popularity may go down,” adds Navalkar.

Today, Fiat announced it will pay the duty itself.

Dilip De, Formula 1 and Ferrari watcher, questions the very ground on which the Ferrari was gifted to Sachin. “If the idea was to reward his achievement, why was it for equalling Bradman’s record' They should have waited for him to break (Sunil) Gavaskar’s record of 34 centuries,” says De.

“It is a grey area why the Ferrari was gifted. But Sachin earns Rs 20-30 crore every year. He should pay the duty. He is an icon. He should be setting an example by paying the money,” says De. He demands that the tax returns of public figures be made accessible.

“Schumaker donates $4 million towards charity every year. If Sachin wants public freebies, he has to make public his returns,” he adds.

Ad man Prahlad Kakkar, the man behind the Pepsi ads that also feature Sachin and his neighbour, springs to Sachin’s defence. “Ravi Shastri and Aishwarya Rai got their cars. This is the same thing.” Kakkar says that things have come to such a pass that it’s almost as if Sachin is being called upon to redeem himself in public.

“I know Sachin. I live in his building. People only talk about these things. But I know how many people he helps. He contributes a lot to charities. He has helped terminally ill children,” says Kakkar.

“It is the government’s decision to exempt the duty. Why drag him into it'”

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