If you’ve seen men taking a leak, spitting gutka at the periphery of the Red Fort which made you feel disgusted at our values to cherish our heritage, then the Central Government has you in for a treat. A news freshly flourished the Indian media stating how the Government of India (GOI) handed over the Red Fort to a private organisation. The Centre and the Dalmia group, a corporate giant, signed an MoU to maintain the Red Fort. Since then, various blames have been planted on the Central Government about trying to privatise the cultural heritage of our nation. In fact, the opposition went as far as to call it ‘The Dalmia Red Fort’.
No doubt that the Red Fort is pride of India, so, it’s maintenance is a job of utter responsibility requiring proper care. Hence, the government took an action that would render immediate results for the 17th century ancient monument. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism signed an MoU with the Dalmia Group under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme, where any private or public sector organisation can adopt a monument to become a ‘Monument Mitra’ and spend on its maintenance under their Corporate Social Responsibilty (CSR) schemes. The Dalmia Group has agreed to invest a sum of ₹25 crore over a period of 5 years under the MoU.
The project primarily enables the group to provide basic amenities such as public conveniences, drinking water, standardized sign boards, illumination, surveillance, ease of access for differently abled and senior citizens to provide an enhanced tourism experience. The MoU further restricts the group from charging the tourists for these maintenance costs. Semi Commercial activities will be charged at “reasonable rates” and the revenue will be further used for the maintenance.
While the opposition is busy criticising the move, the Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons made it clear that the move has neither roped in any money for the government nor has given any rights to the group to work on the insides of the fort. However, this is not first such an instance, the Humayun’s Tomb was given for restoration to the Aga Khan Trust in partnership with the A.S.I under the then PM Manmohan Singh. It is a well known fact that the private entities are better suited for these chores which involves efficient usage of funds. Across the globe, private institutions have been called upon for restoration works of late, such as the Palazzos (Italy), Trevi Fountain (Spain) etc.
Not only will this move bolster tourism in the country but also provide an easy mechanism to maintain the crowd. To that matter, Dalmia group is not the first to adopt such site. As far as 31 public and private entities have adopted various monuments across India which includes Purana Quila, Qutub Minar, Jantar Mantar, Safdarjung Tomb from the capital.
EXECUTION OF SUCH PLANS IN THE NORTH EAST
The entire nation is debating about the issue. While some are criticising the step, others are full of lauds about it. However, there are some basic effects which would highly affect the monuments and the tourists if a similar step is taken by the state governments in the North East.
Some major effects :
1. Private companies are nothing but merchants whose prime objective is profit maximization. Handing over the entire control of the monument to them would boost their power to extract high fares from the tourists. Also, they can impose extravagant rules and regulations.
2. Either the workforce instituted will plummet or their salaries will. As it is evident in history, primary motive of a private company is to gain more labour for less wages. This would, as a result increase the disparity between the rich and the poor of the nation.
3. However there will be some benefits to the step taken as well. The monument will be in its best condition while in the hands of the private players. It’s architecture, cleanliness, outlook, everything will be at its prime.
PROSPECTS FOR ASSAM
Following the Central Government, the state government will also plan to execute the strategy by handing over the state’s monuments to some private companies in an auction. However, the main motive would still remain the security and maintenance of the architecture.
In Assam monuments like Rang Ghor, Kareng Ghor, Talotal Ghor, Shiv Dhol, Agnigarh demand urgent attention.
But, the situation in Assam is quite different. Local activist groups like AASU, AJYCP, MATAK etc have already started to raise their voice against these schemes. These protests will make it really tough for the Government to convince the people as well the organisations.
However, the move cannot be judged until we have the outcome from 5 years hence. The outcome is what will derive the the move right or wrong.