Mahatma Gandhi’s wheelchair-bound relative summoned by Surat official to second-floor officehttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/mahatma-gandhis-wheelchair-bound-relative-summoned-by-surat-official-to-second-floor-office-5621667/

Mahatma Gandhi’s wheelchair-bound relative summoned by Surat official to second-floor office

Shivalaxmi Gandhi, the granddaughter-in-law of Mahatma Gandhi, ran into difficulty trying to register a charitable trust when an official of the Charity Commissionerate in Surat criticised a representative of the elderly woman for “using” Gandhi’s name.

Mahatma Gandhi’s wheelchair-bound relative summoned by Surat official to second-floor office
Shivalaxmi Gandhi at the charity commissioner’s office on Monday. (Express photo by Hanif Malek)

The granddaughter-in-law of Mahatma Gandhi Shivalaxmi Gandhi ran into difficulty trying to register a charitable trust when an official of the Charity Commissionerate in Surat criticised a representative of the aged lady for “using” Gandhi’s name, and insisted that she come in person to his second-floor office to get the paperwork done.

“The descendants of Sardar Patel never used to take his name. Why are the descendants of Mahatma Gandhi taking his name to get work done?” Assistant Charity Commissioner of Surat RV Patel asked when Parimal Desai, who on behalf of Shivalaxmi Gandhi had gone to the charity commissioner’s office to get a newly formed trust registered. Desai had been trying for four months.

On Monday afternoon, all the trust members of Dr Shiva and Kanu Ramdas Gandhi Charitable Trust, took the wheelchair-bound Shivalaxmi to the office of Assistant Charity Commissioner officer R V Patel. This time, the work was done in a mere ten minutes.

A couple of months ago, Shivalaxmi conveyed to Parimal Desai her desire to start a trust to use her life’s savings and pension for the education of underprivileged students of Surat.

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Shivalaxmi, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry and has worked as a research scientist in the United States, settled down in Bhimrad village in Surat after the death of her husband, Kanu Gandhi on November 7, 2016. Kanu Gandhi, the son of Ramdas Gandhi, was 87 when he died. He had been a mathematician who worked as a scientist in NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, US). The couple had left the US a few years ago and settled in Surat.

On account of her age and poor health, Dr Shivalaxmi pressed Desai to register the trust right away. Acting on her request, Desai, along with his son Hardik Desai, Balvant Patel of Bhimrad village and one Ravi Juneja, got the documents ready. Desai tried for four months to get the paperwork cleared.

Around a month ago, finally Assistant Charity commissioner R V Patel of Surat Charity Commissioner’s office told Parimal Desai that the settlor (donor) of the trust, Shivalaxmi Gandhi, must come personally to to get the papers cleared. His office is located on the second floor of a building with no elevators.

“I told him that Dr Shivalaxmi is 92 years old and cannot come to the office due to her old age and illness,” Parimal Desai told The Indian Express. “I also offered to pick up and drop the officials in my car to Dr Shivalaxmi’s place and back. Patel refused, saying there is no such provision.” That is when Desai informed the official that Dr Shivalaxmi was the granddaughter-in-law of Mahatma Gandhi and that she wanted to open the trust for the education of underprivileged students. “Patel, in front of 20 people (other applicants), told me loudly ‘The descendants of of Sardar Patel never use his name. Why are the descendants of Mahatma Gandhi using his name to get work done?’” Desai said.

Taken aback by the official’s behaviour, he returned home and informed the other trust members. Dr Shivalaxmi was also present. “One of the trust members told us that the work would be done if they were to pay a bribe of Rs 5,000 to the official,” said Desai. “Shocked by this, Dr Shivalaxmi told me she would not pay a bribe and would go to the charity commissioner’s office herself and get the documents cleared.” And so she did on Monday.

When asked about the reported comment on Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi, Assistant Charity commissioner R V Patel said, “I don’t want to speak on this issue. The certificate was issued today to them.” He later switched off his phone.