India may not charge import duty on personal artefacts of Mahatma Gandhi, which were bought by liquor baron Vijay Mallya in an auction at New York. Moreover, the country is also going to relax import restriction on all items of historical significance of Indian origin.
A pair of steel-rimmed spectacles and sandals, a Zenith pocket watch, an eating bowl and a plate went under the hammer in New York and the UB Group chairman successfully bid for them for $1.8 million (Rs 9.32 crore).
Mallya said it was an emotional decision on his part, but a historical decision as far as the country was concerned. "It is a national treasure. As an Indian it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show my love for the country. I will gift everything to the country."
Asked why he did not wait for the outcome of the judicial process to stop the auction, he said: "As an Indian, do I wait and allow Mahatma's belongings to go to a foreigner? Since the auction was on, I jumped at the opportunity." Referring to the Tipu Sultan sword, which he had bought five years ago, Mallya said he decided to place it in his home at Santa Fe in the US when the Indian government decided to impose customs duty on it. "The sword could have been in India, where it originally belonged, only if good sense had prevailed at that time," he said, expressing the hope that this time it will.
Under the norms of the Central Board of Excise and Customs, Gandhi's articles will be categorised as "collections and collectors' pieces of zoological, botanical, mineralogical, anatomical, historical, archaeological, palaeontological, ethnographic or numismatic interest". These items attract a basic Customs duty of 12.5 per cent.