MoU and related documents clearly state that ‘Adopt a Heritage’ plan is a CSR initiative.
The Centre’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Dalmia Bharat group regarding the Red Fort may have drawn criticism from various quarters, but the MoU clearly states that the “Adopt a Heritage” programme run by the Ministry of Tourism involves only “development, operations and maintenance of cultural heritage” and does not provide “ownership or revenue generation rights”. This has, in effect, proved that the criticism of the Centre is without basis.
“Monument Mitra, (Dalmia Bharat group) through its social corporate responsibility intends to take up the Red Fort-Delhi monument/sites under Adopt a Heritage project….destination proposed under the project is under the supervision of nodal department Archeological Survey of India (ASI),” the MoU on the Red fort reads.
The announcement that the Dalmia Bharat group has bagged a five-year contract for maintenance and operation of the Red Fort, made the Ministry of Tourism come under massive criticism, with the bandwagon being joined by the Congress, Trinamool Congress (TMC) and CPM, along with historians Irfan Habib and William Dalrymple.
The Congress’ official statement said, “After handing over the Red Fort to the Dalmia group, which is the next distinguished location that the BJP government will lease out to a private entity?” Criticising the Ministry of Tourism’s move, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee protested on Twitter the government’s initiative of “giving” the Red Fort to the Dalmia Bharat group.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislative member Sanjeev Jha accused the government of benefiting private business houses by way of leasing profit earning monuments like the Red Fort and Taj Mahal.
However, these leaders did not read the MoU and other related documents that clearly state that the “Adopt a Heritage” programme is not for sale, but a CSR initiative.
Even the expression (tender) notice discredits the claims made by the critics that private business houses will generate huge revenue out of these monuments. The tender called for the monument’s operation rights states: “Any incidental profit accrued out of the various services provided, has to be re-used in the upgradation, operations and maintenance of the facilities at the site.”
“The heritage sites are facing common challenges primarily related to the creation and operations and maintenance of the various infrastructural as well as service assets. There is a need to develop a robust mechanism for the provision of basic amenities on an immediate basis and advanced amenities on a long term basis,” the project guidelines on “Adopt a Heritage” read.
As many as 100 monuments under three categories, from green to blue and orange, are listed for the offer. According to the website devoted to the “Adopt a Heritage” programme of the Ministry of Tourism, 323 applications have been received, but only four, including of Dalimia Bharat, for the rights of maintenance of Red Fort got approval.
“The Ministry of Tourism, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), envisages developing the heritage sites, monuments and any other tourist sites by making them tourist-friendly. The project would begin with 93 ASI ticketed monuments and would be expanded to other natural and cultural sites across India,” the “Adopt a Heritage” project guideline reads.
The sites that the Ministry of Tourism has kept for adoption offer include Hampi, Karnataka (Green), Leh Palace, Jammu & Kashmir (Blue), Qutub Minar, Delhi (Green), Ajanta Caves, Maharastra (Blue), Purana Qila, New Delhi (Blue), Safdarjung Tomb, Taj Mahal, Agra (Corridor) (Green), Itimad-Ud-Daula, Agra (Orange), Red Fort, Agra (Green), Golconda Fort, Hyderabad (Green), Rock Cut Hindu Temple, Undavalli, Guntur (Blue), Ramappa Temple, Palampet, Telangana (Others), Kotla Feroz Shah, Delhi (Orange), Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh (Green), Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra (Green) and Red Fort, Delhi (Green), besides others. These monuments will be given for adoption in phases.
A senior ASI official told The Sunday Guardian: “The apprehensions regarding security and safety are baseless. The Adopt a Heritage initiative is good move to provide better maintenance and operation of the country’s heritage sites.”
“The Red Fort is considered the zenith of Mughal creativity which, under Shah Jahan, was brought to a new level of refinement,”said the same ASI official.