100 major sites across the country to be handed over to corporate entities.
Conservationists, historians and opposition parties slam move.
The Indian government's 'Adopt a Monument' scheme to hand over upkeep of nearly 100 major historical structures to corporate entities across the country, including the Red Fort and the Qutub Minar in Delhi, has come under fire from conservationists, historians and opposition parties who dubbed it as an attempt to “privatise” heritage monuments.
The immediate trigger for an attack on the Tourism Ministry's scheme, launched by President Ram Nath Kovind in September last year, was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding under which the 17th century Red Fort has been 'adopted' by leading cement manufacturing company Dalmia Bharat Group Ltd which will look after operations at the Fort, an Unesco world heritage site, and maintain it for the next five years for Rs 25 crore.
Under the 'Adopt a Heritage' scheme, private and public sector companies and corporate individuals were invited to adopt heritage sites and to take up responsibility for making them more accessible and promoting sustainable tourism through conservation and development as part of their 'corporate social responsibility'.
The project began at 93 monuments and would be expanded to other natural and cultural sites across India. Among the historical monuments in Delhi that have been adopted are Purana Qila (by construction company NBCC), Jantar Mantar (State Bank of India Foundation), Qutub Minar (Yatra.com, an online travel portal) and Safdarjung Tomb (Travel Corporation of India).
Two leading companies ITC and Indian infrastructure company GMR have evinced interest in upkeep of the Taj Mahal, the iconic 17th century monument in Agra, but no decision has yet been taken on it by the government.
The opposition parties slammed the government's scheme. Congress party , Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) along with historians S Irfan Habib and author William Dalrymple criticised the Tourism Ministry's move to “lease out” the Red Fort to a private entity.
R C Agarwal, former Joint Director of state-owned Archaeological Survey of India, said the scheme was not in the interest of historical monuments.
Congress said in a tweet that “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?”
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also flayed the move. She tweeted: “Why can't the Government even take care of our historic Lal Qila ? Red Fort is a symbol of our nation. It is where India's flag is hoisted on Independence Day. Why should it be leased out? Sad and dark day in our history.(sic)”
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury , said “the Parliamentary Committee that went into the issue of handing over heritage sites to private corporate had decided against this unanimously. Govt should reverse its decision of privatising the Red Fort.”