Officials at various levels of the Ministry of Culture have got a clear brief from the Prime Minister: Find a solution to the embarrassment India faced when Mahatma Gandhi’s spectacles and watch were almost auctioned this March.
When Manmohan Singh took charge as PM for the second term, he chose to retain the Culture portfolio. During the UPA’s first term, and during the NDA’s tenure, the Ministry of Culture was clubbed with that of tourism.
A senior ministry official who did not wish to be named told Hindustan Times that orders from the PM were clear.
Culture Secretary Jawahar Sircar said: “We are trying to find a solution. This was just one suggestion that was discussed in the ministry. Some people suggested bringing in a fresh Act, but there were also those who said we should simply ignore such stunts and give them the cold shoulder.”
A section of officials, however, said an amendment was on the anvil in the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, to cover items that belonged to Mahatma Gandhi. The amendment would ensure that owners register such items and would bar their sale or auction.
The ministry is also writing to nations, with which India shares bilateral agreements on cultural issues, asking them to prevent auctions of Gandhi memorabilia.