December 2, 2013 12:05:58 am
Former President Pratibha Patil has returned 155 gifts that she had received during her tenure that were loaned to an NGO called Vidya Bharati Shaikshanik Mandal,Amravati,for display. The gifts include a stone box gifted by the US President,a candle set from 10 Downing Street,a marble memento embellished with pure gold leaf gifted during a regional anti-corruption meet in Delhi and several silver mementoes. They were returned in May this year.
The Presidents Secretariat gave out the information in reply to an RTI request filed by activist Subhash Aggarwal,albeit after an appeal. A query about transportation costs though went unanswered on the ground that the section concerned had no information on this. The gifts were loaned to Vidya Bharati Shaikshanik Mandal as per an MoU signed between Rashtrapati Bhavan and the NGO. The former President has not retained any gifts,the office said in its response and neither did it receive any representations against the decision to loan them out.
This was not the first time that gifts received by the President were loaned out though in the past it has been to government institutions. Thirty-six artefacts were handed over to DRDO during the presidency of A P J Abdul Kalam for being displayed in the Brahmos Centre in New Delhi. All 36 items were returned on October 3,2012.
A policy decision has been taken to henceforth display all gifts received during the tenures of various Presidents in the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum.
However,no reply was forthcoming on whether the Presidents office too is covered by a recent order that makes it mandatory for all ministers and bureaucrats to reveal their foreign gifts.
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