New Delhi: Ten months after becoming prime minister, Narendra Modi declared his most expensive foreign gift ever - a jewellery set worth Rs 35 lakh.
This expensive gift was announced in the latest quarterly list of foreign gifts in Ministry of External’s depository, known as Toshakhana. All foreign gifts have to be submitted to Toshakhana, their value is assessed. If it is worth less than Rs 4000, the recipient has the option to take it back. For items worth more than Rs 4000, there is also the choice to pay the difference and retain the gift.
The description of Modi’s costliest foreign gift received so far is rather prosaic. “One box containing jewelery set (one necklace and a pair of ear ring),” says the entry on the first page of the 16-page list of gifts. It was deposited on April 7 and is still stored in a secured room in Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan.
The list however does not mention the name of the gift giver, after MEA successfully argued before the Central Information Commission that such a disclosure would impair relations with other countries.
It is however believed that the most generous foreign gifts are usually from Gulf kingdoms and Bhutan.
Modi’s gift, while impressively expensive, is however, less that his predecessor’s costliest foreign gift. Manmohan Singh got a jewellery set worth Rs 48.93 lakh in May 2005. That was not all – Singh also deposited a gift set of a sword, prayer beads, a table watch and a pen worth Rs 20.91 lakh at the same time.
Incidentally, the gift list also includes a cricket bat and ball “duly autographed by an International Cricket team”. However, it was assessed to have “no commercial value” and “returned to the recipient”.
During April to June this year, Modi received and got 65 gifts – the largest number among the 155 foreign gifts deposited in toshakhana during the same period.
This is his biggest haul so far - just two less than 67 foreign gifts that Prime Minister’s office registered with Toshakhana for the period of 10 months between May 2014 to March 2015.
Incidetnally, his most expensive gift so far in those ten months had been a gold and diamond cufflink assessed at Rs 75,000 deposited on February 19.
After Modi, the minister of state for commerce and industry Nirmala Sitharaman listed 37 gifts, overtaking external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj with only 27 gifts. Sitharaman’s most expensive item is a “carpet in a box” assessed at Rs 15,000.
While Swaraj came third in the gift haul, she did not do too shabbily – having received two watches worth Rs 6 lakh.