Monday, March 9, 2009

Under the Hammer......Hey Ram !!!

Over the last few days Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has been in news….and for all the wrong reasons……reasons, he had always wanted to stay away from……his bare essentials of daily use being auctioned for money!!!!!
His memorabilia….. a collection of his rimmed specs, chappals, pocket watch, plate & bowl, in which he ate; …….all getting under the hammer of an auction on 5th March’09, by an arts collector, James Otis. The prize fetching, a whopping 1.80 million USD, clinched by Tony Bedi on behalf of Vijay Mallya, the liquor baron. Vijay Mallya, is known for visiting such auctions & collecting famous memorabilia (he had earlier picked up the sword of Tipu Sultan at an auction in London)…Regular news this… why such media glare & attention????

For Gandhiji money & material gains were never a priority. Throughout his life, he continued on his mission, in the minimum possible clothes & belongings and gifted away items to people from time to time who he thought were deserving......not for money, but for love...for appreciation!!!!Ironically, 60 years after he left us, his belongings are fetching money, as they change hands across the world. Ironically again, it is saved by a liquor baron, who sells a product, Gandhi ji was always against. Gandhi ji’s famous words, “Alcohol is not the answer to life’s questions”, to which Mr Mallya had quoted, "At least it helps you forget the question”.

Anyways, the worry for me is not the memorabilia or the auction….cause that will continue to happen in this world in some form or the other. What bothers me is the sleazy & cheap response of the Central Govt of our country…..
Comments of a few eminent leaders of the UPA led Govt, on this event given below :
1) “Every possible effort will be made to bring back the articles which are a part of the national heritage.”, Anand Sharma, Minister of State for External Affairs.
2) "Government is making all efforts possible to ensure that the belongings are restored to their rightful owner, the Navjivan Trust, to whom the Father of the Nation had willed his movable and immovable personal belongings," Vishnu Prakash, spokesman, External Affairs Ministry.
3) Tourism Minister Ambika Soni goes the distance. She says, "Prime Minister has directed me to do whatever possible. I have the prime minister's instructions that we would not like to have these items be auctioned from one party to another, the bottomline is to procure the memorabilia. We will offer whatever it takes to make sure these things come back to Gandhi's motherland. We will enter the auction if required as a last resort to bring back the items to the country. Soni also said the glasses and other items "were tokens given to individuals in recognition of their Gandhian values." Their sale meant commercialization of his belongings and a repudiation of what he stood for. We will offer whatever it takes to make sure these things come back to Gandhi's motherland."

What we all witnessed ahead was macabre.
Tall claims by the Govt, without any serious steps to stop the auction or secure the memorabilia. From claims to stop the auction at any cost, to injunction from High Court (I don’t know what impact or controls this has on anyone outside the country???), to offering whatever it takes to bring these items back to the country, to returning the items to the rightful owner, The Navjivan Trust….we heard it all.
‘Empty vessels make more sound’……as usual.

But this was not the end of the ordeal.

Minutes after Vijay Mallya had secured the items thru auction, Ambika Soni was already in front of the camera, “The Indian Government procured the five personal articles of Mahatma Gandhi at a New York auction through the services of industrialist Vijay Mallya as it could not bid directly because of a stay order of the Delhi High Court”, she said. The priceless items were "procured through the services of an Indian, Vijay Mallya" and his representative was "in touch with us" through the Indian Consulate in New York, she told a press conference in New Delhi. "I am very happy to inform that the UPA govt has successfully secured the personal items gifted by Gandhiji to individuals through the services of Mr Vijay Mallya, whose representative had been in constant touch with us," she claimed."We had been trying to stop Gandhi's belongings to be auctioned. The Culture ministry in close co-operation with the Ministry of External Affairs made the deal possible. We had also sent a Delhi HC order to the auctioneer stop the event. But finally it was an Indian who bought the stuff for the government," she added.

At a press interview later, speaking exclusively to TIMES NOW's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, Vijay Mallya said that he went ahead to bid independently and government was not in any form of contact with me.
Some excerpts of the conversation :
Arnab: Were you acting in coordination or support of the Indian Government or were you acting independently?
Mallya: I was acting independently as Vijay Mallya. I have not discussed this with anybody in the government of India at all. The minute I got to know that these items were up for auction, I decided to bid for them, as I indeed bid for the sword of Tipu Sultan few years ago. So, I sent my assistant Tony Bedi to the auctioneer. We had discussions with the auctioneer on whether the auction will be held. They confirmed that it was indeed going to take place and so I immediately sent Toni to New York. I was myself on the phone bidding, when the auction was taking place. That is what happened. There was no contact with the government in anyway.
Arnab: You confirm that?
Mallya: Absolutely. No one was even aware that I was going to bid. This was something I had decided privately.
Arnab: Ambika Soni, in a press conference said that it was the UPA government which helped you in getting the possessions back to India and you are saying it was done entirely in your individual capacity. Who is one supposed to believe?
Mallya: I have not heard such statements from Amibka Soni. So I really cannot comment. You asked me whether I was in dialogue with the government and the answer is I was not in any dialogue with the government. That is a straight fact.

What does all this tell us????
It says that our Central Govt, is so spineless that it :
1) Does not have enough powers or clout to even stop an auction from happening. The Foreign Ministry shows poor international control.
2) Has money to blow up on VVIP treatment to its ministers, money to blow up on election campaigns (only to make useless commitments), but not enough money to spend 1.8million USD to bring back priceless possessions of our country. How poor can we get????
3) It has leaders who are only looking at grabbing brownie points, like beggars, like scavengers, waiting & watching to grab. Derive political mileage even out of such an event. NO moral values or ethics or principles.
4) Someone rightly said, “The credit of the Oscars must go to the Congress Party, because without Congress, there would not have been slums in India, even after 62 years of Independence.” Tough lines, but certainly a lot of truth...certainly worth pondering!!!
5) No wonder, this Govt has 'Jai Ho', as their election song & slogan & not Jai Hind!!!!
6) Thanks to this Govt, the Rupee value has already hit an all time low….. this inspite Global meltdown, where, India is supposed to be better off than many other countries.
7) The national security is of utmost concern, both internal & external.

Fellow Indians, I implore :
Let us all wake up to these hard realities. With the General Elections round the corner, let us ensure that we all vote. Do not let this opportunity go away. This is the time to become responsible……time to respond to the need of the hour. We all need to exercise our fundamental right to vote. Vote the right leaders to power. Leaders who would own up to the responsibilities. Leaders who would work to shape a strong India. Leaders who would not let us shamelessly.

Jai Hind.


Venkat Kaundinya said...

I feel that
1. The personal belongings of Gandhiji have been bid for a very meagre amount of money,
2. If the auction could not have been stopped by the govt., at least it should have ensured that full or part of the amount would go into funding some charities. They would have saved face for themselves as well.
But good to see that money we spend on buying beer is going into such "philanthropic" activities. It is we beer consumers who have saved face for this time :)

Anonymous said...

I observed two things from various newspaper articles:

1. Vijay Mallya is a MP in Rajyasabha
2. There is a plan to waive off import duties on articles bought by him

i also condemn Govt. of India for handling the case pathetically.

Moksha said...

Thoroughly agree with you. The Indian Foreign ministry, even if bound by a High court order not to bid, could have used an actual proxy. Instead they chose to rest on Vijay Mallya's laurels. Kudos to Mallya tho, whether he bid as a collector or out of sheer patriotism remains to be seen.