The somewhat wearisome practice of burying time capsules has received a nasty set back here: a splendid all-steel model designed to stay underground for untold centuries is to be dug up, five years after its burial, because of a squabble over what went into it.
A parliamentary committee has been established to supervise the exhumation and to open the capsule and reveal what lies inside. The assumption here is that, since then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi buried the device, it will be packed with laudatory paper about her family, and little else.
A member of Parliament from the Punjab, Dutt Sharma - a member of the ruling Peoples Party but formerly a leader of the Hindu nationalist party the Jan Sangh - is chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Examination of Time Capsules. He explained the reasons for spending tens of thousands of rupees to retrieve it.
"We have reasons for suspecting that Mrs. Gandhi used the capsule to tell future civilizations about her greatness and the greatness of the whole Nehru family. We have been told for example, that while there are papers relating both to her and her father, Jawharal Nehru, there is nothing relating to Lah Bahadur Shastri even though he was prime minister, too. There have been tales that the capsules has pictures of Sanjay and other Gandhi relations."
Gandhi's sons Sanjay has been accused of corruption.
The capsule, which Gandhi ordered to be buried in concrete in August 1972, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Indian independence, is outside one of the gates of the huge Moghul Red Fort, in old Delhi.
"It may be all of 50 feet down," said Sharma. "As it is near the River Jamuna we may find that water will pour into the excavations. We expected excavations to take about two months and to cost about 15,000 rupees," $3,000.
A 24-hour security guard has been ordered around the excavations, to prevent any over zealous supporter of Gandhi from stealing in and removing the capsule.
"We want to have it opened in front of the committee and then let the people of India know what she has done. We don't want ot risk having the truth about Mrs. Gandhi's conduct taken away from us."