The 77-year-old Dalmia Bharat group had become the first corporate house in India to adopt a historical monument under a contract worth Rs 250 million (Rs 25 crore) for a period of five years. The firm beat IndiGo Airlines and GMR group to bag the contract under Modi government’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Dalmia Bharat Limited, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The Congress questioned the Centre’s commitment to the “idea” and history of India in the wake of a private entity bagging a contract to maintain the iconic Red Fort. Though Modi government says, Adopt a Heritage scheme is for development, maintenance and operation of Tourism amenities in monuments. But the Red Fort is the pride of nation and the government has no right to compromise it in private hands. We the people of this nation pay enough income tax and the government has enough funds to utilise it for right reasons.
Adopt a Heritage project primarily focuses on providing basic amenities that includes cleanliness, public conveniences, drinking water, ease of access for differently abled and senior citizens, standardised signage, illumination and advanced amenities such as surveillance system, night viewing facilities, tourism facilitation center and an enhanced tourism experience that will result in more tourist footfalls, both domestic and foreign.
What we needed is developing basic tourism infrastructure; promoting cultural and heritage value of the country to generate livelihoods in the identified regions; enhancing the tourist attractiveness in a sustainable manner by developing a world-class infrastructure at the heritage monument sites; creating employment through active involvement of local communities; harnessing tourism potential for its effects in employment generation, as government has failed to generate employment for the youth of this country, in spite of their so-called election agenda. Developing sustainable tourism infrastructure and ensuring proper operations and maintenance was happening so far; but the question is that who will share those taxes paid by people, is it the government of India or the organisation that has adopted the heritage or both? Will this be tourist friendly?
It has been evident that plethora of heritage buildings across the Nation are losing their sanctity due to inadequate maintenance in all respects. Further, slum clusters surround these ancient heritage and the buildings become hubs for criminal activities like snatching of purses and other articles from the tourists, besides some tourists especially, foreigners have reported their experiences about molestation, stalking, drug mafias and supply of drugs and so on. Therefore, it’s a good step that the government is hiring reputed private stakeholders to look after these previous structures in all respects to attract in-house and foreigner tourists for generation of revenues and making good diplomatic relations with other countries.
BJP government has failed sorrowfully in every field — levied new taxes, no new constructions, hospitals, schools, institutes. They have been unable to reach the target for highway construction and handing over public sector entities to private persons. Why? The government didn’t inherit empty exchequer from UPA. Now the government handed over the maintenance of Red Fort to Dalmia group and planning to do the same about other historical buildings. After independence till now, each government has protected and maintained all historical monuments. Our heritage is a rich source of income through tourists. It’s the government’s paramount duty to maintain our country’s heritage. Our heritage is our pride. Our national properties can’t be handed over to individuals to maintain them. Without the details of the agreement being known or made public, the handing over the upkeep of a heritage site to a private firm is half-baked. For instance, in Hyderabad, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture is currently doing a remarkably fine job in the restoration of the Qutb Shahi tombs, whilst next door, the great Golconda Fort, which is maintained by the inept Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) languishes in the official apathy and is a target of vandalism; all the proof that is necessary about the ASI’s incompetence is reflected in the now permanently disfigured Fateh Rahbar cannon on the western ramparts of the Golconda fort.
As of March this year, 31 prospective ‘monument mitras’ or ‘friends of heritage sites’ have been shortlisted by an oversight and vision committee for developing tourist-friendly amenities at 95 sites including monuments, heritage, and other tourist spots. They are handing over the iconic monument to a private business. What is your commitment to the idea of India and its history??
Now the question which arises here is whether the BJP government really has a dearth of funds? Why do funds for the ASI lapse? See the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) reports. If they have a paucity of funds, then why do they lapse?
Will the companies involved in these projects only spend and not make money? Will they create amenities such as toilets, drinking water supply for the tourists so that their footfalls increase, but what is their interest in doing so?
In addition to the Red Fort and the Qutub Minar in Delhi, other such sites identified for the project include Hampi in Karnataka, Odisha’s Sun Temple, the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra, the Charminar in Telangana and Assam’s Kaziranga National Park. The fifth Mughal ruler Shah Jahan built the Red Fort in the 17th century as he moved his administrative capital from Agra to the present-day Delhi. Under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme launched by the Indian government in September 2017, almost 100 monuments and heritage sites across India have been put up for adoption. This includes the Taj Mahal, in Uttar Pradesh, Kangra Fort in Himachal Pradesh and Buddhist Kanheri caves in Mumbai.
Hope the next step won’t be ‘Adopt India’ or else we would be living in an adopted India by some corporate houses.
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