NEW DELHI: As the man who launched the country’s economic reforms, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh understands valuation better than others.
That is probably why it is not surprising that he chose to take with him as he left office only 101 of the numerous gifts received from ‘foreign sources’ during his tenure as Prime Minister.
These include an ornamental silver elephant embedded with semi-precious stones, 11 carpets, 10 paintings, five tea sets, including a 22-piece Noritake one, a Bose sound system and a gold-plated Piaget ladies wrist watch.
In reply to a query submitted under the Right to Information Act, the Ministry of External Affairs has said the value of selected items range from `300 to `35,000. Only seven of the gifts are above the `5,000-limit set under the Foreign Contribution (Acceptance or Retention of Gifts or Presentation) Rules 2012, it added. As per the rules, if the evaluated cost of a gift is above the limit, Singh has to pay the difference if he wants to keep it.
Which is where the tale gets its first twist. The most expensive gift that Singh has retained is the gold-plated Piaget watch. The assessed value, as per the government is `35,000. The company website cites the price of `4 lakh-plus for a similar watch. The cost assessment of the items seem to be a special one, as it is difficult to find anything on the Piaget website which is less than `1.5 lakh. The assessed value of the Bose Wave music system is `20,000; the cheapest Bose Wave music system sold in the country costs `39,000. The Noritake 22-piece tea set that has gone to Singh’s new home is said to cost `5,500; even online, a 17-piece set costs over `20,000. From the list of gifts retained by Singh has retained, it seems either the former Prime Minister or someone in his household has an affinity for argent. Several of the 101 gifts are made of silver, from a bird sculpture to a yacht to boxes and vases.
As per the assessed value, Singh should have paid the government `37,000 to compensate for the seven items that ‘officially’ cross the acceptable barrier. It is learnt that the former Prime Minister has deposited the additional money. As per the norms, the list does not include the names of the gift-givers.
According to sources, however, visitors from the Gulf countries and Bhutan are among the most generous.
Last November, the former Prime minister received a Rolex watch assessed at `9 lakh. He didn’t take that. Wonder on what basis he chose the rest.