Craftiness at national Crafts Museum
by Krishen Kak on 16 Jul 2010 7 Comments

The National Handicrafts & Handlooms Museum, commonly called the Crafts Museum, home to over 22,000 national treasures, is spread over 5 acres in a picturesque environment in the capital city. It started in the 1950s and over the decades evolved into a major Delhi landmark. Noteworthy, as we shall see, it has always been under the administrative and financial control of the government, and is currently under the Ministry of Textiles.  


During Mrs Indira Gandhi’s time, the Museum was part of the fiefdom of her confidante Mrs Pupul Jayakar, popularly designated India’s “czarina of culture.” Everyone knew Mrs J had Mrs G’s backing, and Mrs J ruled her fiefdom as a benevolent dictator. Mrs J had her protégés, but she was careful to promote them professionally by manipulating from within “the system;” thus, for one of them she had the Ministry tailor the museum director’s recruitment rules to fit his qualifications and experience; he duly was selected to the post.


Cut to today.


The second Mrs Gandhi – Mrs Sonia Gandhi – has created a “czarina of crafts” without even that earlier fig leaf of the rules. Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta recently commented on the strategy of Dr Manmohan Singh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi to dodge direct political and administrative accountability by resorting to the ruse of an “Empowered Group of Ministers”



Against this backdrop, a comparable system of operation has been introduced at the Crafts Museum, a national body fully funded by the government, that is to say, from the public exchequer. A ‘Committee of Administration’ has been set up and a private consultant appointed its chairperson. This person now acts as Director of the Crafts Museum!!!  


The museum directorship (formally, “Senior Director”) is an authorized government post to which recruitment is required to be made, following due process, by the Union Public Service Commission. The post has remained unfilled for over two years. Meanwhile, bypassing the UPSC, a non-government functionary exercises all the functions of the government museum director. Would this person be eligible to be recruited by the UPSC as museum director under the current rules for that post? If yes, why has that proper procedure not been followed? 


The said person, Dr Ruchira Ghose, is reportedly a personal friend of Mrs Sonia Gandhi and further said to be connected to an IAS officer loyal to her



In 2009, Dr Ghose was brought in as a consultant to the government for a period of one year with the basic specification of implementing a new revenue generation programme towards the museum’s financial self-reliance. She resigned within six months, apparently due to incompatibility with others, inability to follow government rules and procedures, and non-performance.


Obviously a failure the first time, she still had to be favoured, and so Dr Ghose was appointed again with the same brief as before – with one critical difference.


This time she was made Chair of a ‘Committee of Administration’ within the Museum. It has three other members, two of whom are mid-level Ministry officials and the third a retired museum official. This must be the first time a national museum has been put under the administrative control of a consultant and its operations handled by an eye-wash committee, rather than designated officials with specific responsibilities.


It is the equivalent of an Empowered Group of Ministers or a Consultative Committee running the Ministry, and the Chair of the Committee replacing the Minister!


Reliable sources say this has happened due to the direct intervention and insistence of Mrs Sonia Gandhi.


Though only the chair of a committee, Dr Ghose signs herself as chair of the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum - and gets away with acting as its full head. Why? Do government rules allow private consultants to be the head of a government establishment, or heads of committees to become heads of government institutions? Dr Ghose was contracted for a specific purpose only, but now all museum matters are routed through her. Why is the post not being filled through the UPSC? Or is there a move to change the rules to fit the bio-data of Dr Ghose?


Dr Ruchira Ghose was living in Geneva till she returned to India last year. Even before her return, preparations were made to hand over the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum (a government establishment with enormously valuable assets – land, buildings, exhibits & collections) to a private trust to be run by Dr Ghose. Fortunately (recall the IGNCA scandal), the Finance Ministry’s refusal to allow national property to be handed over to private control, and eminent persons in the field raised objections, and this humongous scam-in-the-making was quietly scuttled by Mr. Sankarsinh Vaghela, Minister of Textiles in UPA-I .


Thus, what Dr Ghose could not acquire directly in UPA-I was handed over to her indirectly in UPA-II. At whose command? 


Dr Ghose is de facto head of a government institution – and signs herself as such. 


Is it true that she gets a salary of Rs 75,000 per month plus a car and a telephone at her home? Let us look at some examples of her directorial capability.


-        Dr Ghose recommended that Mr Mushtaq Khan, who retired on May 31, be reappointed as Adviser. This created the strange situation of a consultant seeking the appointment of an advisor! Despite his retirement, Mr Khan neither vacated his office nor demitted his post. The deputy director who has a PhD in Museology is being kept redundant.


-        The revenue generation plan sought from Dr Ghose never materialized. She is currently engaged in trying to dismantle and renovate the souvenir shop, canteen and outer gate, contracting this out to private interior designers. Are these areas not within the regulatory bounds of the Archaeological Survey of India which protects the Purana Qila?


-        Is it true that the monthly revenue from gate money was Rs 1.5 lakhs before Dr Ghose took over? And that, without obtaining approval from the appropriate authority in the Ministry of Textiles, Dr Ghose changed the system of collection to view only the galleries so that now the monthly revenue has dropped to Rs 16,000 per month? Yet she was appointed to raise revenue?


-        Moreover, for major renovation work of the Museum, does the Municipal Corporation of Delhi have to give permission? And is there a longstanding problem between the MCD, the India Trade Promotion Organization that controls Pragati Maidan, and the Crafts Museum, which is not on the records of the MCD at all? Is it correct that the Museum spends 50% of its budget in paying ITPO dues, which is under the Ministry of Commerce? The revenue-generating museum head is not plugging this major outflow of museum money but focuses on spending museum money on minor decorating jobs that may be against ASI regulations!


-        Last year a major exhibition of arts and artefacts was inaugurated by the Minister for Textiles, and donated to the Museum by a leading crafts organization. Is it true that this has still not been displayed although the complete exhibit was to be a part of a permanent educational display, and that Dr Ghose now plans to display it in parts whereas the exhibition is a composite art work?


-        Dr Ghose uses a Grade B administrative and security officer to sign administrative communications. Is it true that Dr Ghose has entrusted to this favourite of hers the work of collection and conservation of museum objects despite his not having the qualifications required for collection and conservation or for arranging craft demonstration programmes, despite his being on deputation, and is retiring within a month?


-        Is it true that Dr Ghose permits herself to enjoy a 5-day week that other museum personnel cannot, and permits herself other departures from the rules applicable to other museum personnel, such as (after joining her post just a few months ago for the second time) an unsanctioned departure for London on a 15-day jaunt?  


-        Dr Ghose, given the patronage of our de facto prime minister, believes that thanks to her connections rules do not apply to her, and that even though the Crafts Museum is under the Textiles Ministry, her ‘importance’ entitles her to deal directly at Minister level. Report has it that she was even trying to get the Textiles Secretary transferred!


For all these exertions, the public exchequer compensates Dr Ghose over-generously in a post for which, it should be evident, she is not eligible under the rules.   


The National Advisory Council headed by Mrs Sonia Gandhi is the egregious example of a non-governmental and extra-Constitutional authority dominating a Constitutional one. At a lesser level, Dr Ruchira Ghose, protégée of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, is a non-governmental functionary dominating official ones.


The National Handicrafts & Handlooms Museum is a national resource and treasure. It – and Dr Ghose’s salary and perks – are paid for from the public exchequer.


Mrs Pupul Jayakar once remarked – “I do not have to justify my actions to anyone”



To whom was Mrs Pupul Jayakar accountable?


Not to the Indian public, but only to her patroness Mrs Indira Gandhi. 


To whom is Dr Ruchira Ghose accountable? 


Not to the Indian public, but only to her patroness Mrs Sonia Gandhi.


Krishen Kak is an anthropologist and retired civil servant, with extensive experience of the Indian crafts sector 

User Comments Post a Comment
Comments are free. However, comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate material will be removed from the site. Readers may report abuse at
Post a Comment

Back to Top