India gets Gandhi back

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Updated: Mar 14, 2009, 15:26 PM IST

It was indeed heart warming to know that we finally managed to get back valuable personal items belonging to the father of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi albeit with the efforts of liquor baron Vijay Mallaya. <br/><br/>The renowned industrialist has denied any role played by the government and promised to donate them to the country once he actually gets those precious items. <br/><br/>It’s quite interesting to note that the heritage of Mahatma Gandhi, who is perhaps the most revered Indian leader, was saved by someone who deals in liquor – something that the Bapu never promoted. But, here I am not understating the efforts of Vijay Mallya or raising any doubts over his patriotism and fondness for Gandhian philosophy. <br/><br/>What I am trying to say is that the country was able to get those valuable items only after the industrialist paid a whopping USD 1.8 million (Rs 9.3 crore) to acquire their possessions. <br/><br/>Although, the high voltage drama ended on a positive note, the entire episode also exposed the lackadaisical attitude of the Indian government, which clearly failed to stop the Gandhi heritage from going under hammer. They succeeded but it was too late. <br/><br/>Millions of ordinary Indians like me were on tenterhooks and kept their fingers crossed ever since the news regarding the auction of Gandhi memorabilia in the US broke out. <br/><br/>India’s success at the auction hailed as ‘miracle’ in the country’s media, no doubt brought cheers to the face of all of us, but also left a question mark over the government’s seriousness in preserving things of national pride. <br/><br/>The auction of the Gandhi memorabilia appeared to be becoming a prestige issue for the government at the Centre, which proclaimed that it was taking every effort in its capacity to stop the auction, but in vain. <br/><br/>After Mallya’s success at the New York auction, the government is trying to take the credit for bringing home the most treasured items but it’s tight lipped on why it kept the entire nation in dark. <br/><br/>In a bid to ward off criticism from the Opposition and other quarters, Union Culture Minister Ambika Soni said that the government could not do it directly because of a stay order of the Delhi High Court. <br/><br/>Soni went a step further and declared Vijay Mallya a “true Indian” whose services enabled a helpless government get back the personal items of a man, who never possessed any materialistic property and gave all that he had including his life, for the sake of nation. <br/><br/>Mallya, the owner of Kingfisher Airlines, who is also known for his lavish lifestyle, has surely become an apple of everyone’s eye for saving the Indian government from further embarrassment both at the domestic and international front. <br/><br/>As of now, the government has bravely shrugged off allegations of being caught napping over the issue, but it would certainly come under the Opposition scanner during election campaigning. <br/><br/>Among other issues, the Opposition could try to corner the ruling alliance for not rising from a deep slumber and stopping the auction of Gandhi memorabilia. <br/><br/>One more thing which needs mention here is the commendable job done by the Indian American community to prevent a non Indian from buying the Gandhi heritage. <br/><br/>Hours before the auction started, Indian American leaders held consultations on the strategy at the Indian Consulate with top Indian diplomats, including Consul General Prabhu Dayal. <br/><br/>Led by Sant Singh Chatwal, a leading hotelier, Indian American leaders decided that Indians would not bid against one another as it would send the price up. <br/><br/>They also agreed not to let those items be bought by a private collector. <br/><br/>The tough conditions laid down by the owner of the items, James Otis, just before the auction were also not possible for the Indian government to accept. <br/><br/>Nevertheless, the government needs to allocate more funds and launch welfare schemes to eradicate the menace of poverty and improve the lives of millions of undernourished and unprivileged people. <br/><br/>The government should also constitute a panel of its ambassadors and envoys to keep track in their respective countries whether anyone possesses anything relating to Bapu. <br/><br/>The government should understand that items like the Gandhi memorabilia and other national heritage must be preserved at any cost since the emotions of our countrymen are attached to them. <br/>