|Outgoing President Pratibha Patil waves on her way to Parliament to deliver her farewell speech on Monday. The President will address the nation on Doordarshan and AIR from 7pm on Tuesday. (AFP picture)
New Delhi, July 23: Outgoing President Pratibha Patil is taking a piece of her tenure to share it with her old constituency.
She plans to open a museum in Amravati, a town in Maharashtra’s northeast, to display 150 gifts she had received from heads of state and others.
The museum will be maintained by the Patil family-run Vidya Bharati Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, which runs a chain of schools in Amravati, Jalgaon and Mumbai. The Amravati collector will head the museum’s supervisory committee.
Officials said the museum is understood to have been Patil’s idea but the formal proposal came from the Vidya Bharati trust, with which the President’s estate has now signed a memorandum of understanding.
“A select 150 objects that the President received as gifts have been sent to set up a museum in Amravati. They are a loan and can be taken back by the President’s estate anytime,” said Archana Dutta, the officer on special duty (public relations) to the President.
However, no timetable has been set for the return of the gifts, which are understood to have come from various individuals and organisations, Indian and foreign.
Neither the President’s office nor the Amravati collector would provide details about the presents or say who had gifted them.
“There are a few sculptures, a few wooden artefacts and a few shawls among other things,” was all that the Amravati collector, Rahul Ranjan Mahiwal, would say. “About 40 of them have arrived in Amravati and more are on their way.”
Insiders said several trucks were ferrying Patil’s belongings out of Rashtrapati Bhavan each day.
Raisina Hill sources said all the gifts a President receives are deposited with the official tosha khana (treasury of gifts), which maintains an inventory. They said outgoing Presidents usually do not take any expensive gifts with them although convention allows them to take some of these as a temporary loan.
Former foreign secretary K.C. Singh, however, said there are “no norms for Presidents or Prime Ministers in India about what to do with the things they have been gifted”.
He said that bureaucrats and ministers other than Prime Ministers have to submit the gifts they receive to the tosha khana and can buy them later at a discount of Rs 3,000.
“But a President (or Prime Minister) can decide what they want to do with their gifts,” Singh said. “Rajiv Gandhi had transferred a lot of carpets he had received to the tosha khana but after his death they were sent to Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan (a Union government building housing aviation ministry offices, not a Congress or Gandhi family establishment).”
US Presidents are allowed to hold on to domestic gifts. They have to pay a tax on the value of these gifts, though. If the value is above a certain cut-off, they have to formally disclose the donor’s identity. If a US President wants to keep a present from a foreign dignitary or organisation, he has to pay its value plus a tax and has to reveal the source of the gift.
Patil, who received about 2,500 gifts during her tenure as President, demits office on Wednesday but no date has been set for the opening of the museum. Nor has it been decided whether visitors would need to buy tickets to see the collection, the Amravati collector said.
“The building is ready; it’s for the President to decide when she will open the museum,” Mahiwal said.
Patil represented Amravati in 1991 but quit active politics at the end of her Lok Sabha term in 1996. In 2004, she was appointed governor of Rajasthan.
Her son Rajendra Singh Shekhawat is MLA from Amravati while her husband, Devisingh Shekhawat, was the town’s first mayor.