Over 1400 items lying in the MEA treasury for years
Reply to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that a large number of expensive gift items are languishing in the treasury for decades. The reply has shown that over 1400 gifts are lying in the foreign ministry’s treasury or toshakhana, some for over 30 years, for which six proposals were unsuccessfully mooted for auctioning.
As per the rules, all the all gifts received from foreign dignitaries by government functionaries are deposited with the toshkahana. The Ministers / officials can retain gift valued at less than Rs 5,000 and in case they wish to keep any expensive gift, it may be done on payment of the fair price as assessed by a customs appraiser.
The data shows that as on November 1, 2014, the toshakhana has an inventory of 1,429 gifts. The last auction of items in the toshakhana was held 33 years back in 1983. Proposals were made to hold auctions at least six times in 1985, 1988, 1994, 1998, 2000 and 2002, but the same have not materilased.
The list of gifts incluses Rolex watches, expensive French cut-glass lamps and diamond-studded gold jewellery sets. 36 gifts including carpets, a sculpted ebony pillar and a set of two ostrich eggshell bowls were transferred to the prime minister’s office. The alcoholic beverages are often used in government parties and there is hardly any of it left. The reply shows that 50 items that could be used by officers were given to foreign ministry personnel. Activists have pointed that the before the goods get obsolete, it is better to auction the same and use the money for the social causes.