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Red Fort sold or adopted? Oppositions raises voice on ‘Adopt A heritage’ plan

The government has decided to hand over the national heritage of the nation into the hands of the private sector under the scheme ‘Adopt A heritage’ plan.

Is it privatization of India’s heritage? The opposition thinks so.

Congress has kicked up a row on Saturday, citing a five-year contract with a renewable clause signed for a pittance of Rs 25 crore with the Dalmia Bharat group of companies to develop tourism facilities in the Red Fort (Lal Quila) built in Delhi in the 17th Century by India’s first Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

The Congress party questioned the government’s move to “lease out” the Mughal-era monument to a private entity.

In a question on Twitter, the Congress asked:

“They are handing over the iconic monument to a private business. What is your commitment to the idea of India, to the history of India? We know you have no commitment, but we still want to ask you,” Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera told reporters.

“Do you have a dearth of funds. Why funds for the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) lapse, why do they lapse. See the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) reports. If they have a paucity of funds, then why do they lapse?” he asked.


West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted:

TMC MP Derek O’Brien also took to Twitter to question the move.:

CPM reminded the Government that the Parliamentary Committee that went into the issue of handing over heritage sites to private entities had “decided against this unanimously”.

The Left party in a statement said the government “virtually handed over the Red Fort to the Dalmia group”. It urged the Government to rescind its decision.

Historian William Dalrymple tweeted his discomfort. “There must be better ways of maintaining a nation’s greatest monuments than by auctioning them off to a corporate house,” he said.

Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma tried to clear the air, surprised that a political row had broken out over a scheme that had been announced last year.

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“We are proud of our monuments and we are proud of our rich heritage and culture,” Sharma said.

Responding to opposition remarks, minister of state for tourism KJ Alphons said under the scheme started last year, the ministry is looking at public participation to develop heritage monuments.

“The companies involved in these projects will only spend and not make money. They will create amenities such as toilets, provide drinking water for the tourists so that their footfalls increase. They might put up signs outside to say that they have developed the amenities. If they are spending money, there is nothing wrong in taking credit for it,” he said.

“I want to ask the Congress what they did for the past 70 years. All the monuments and facilities around them are in terrible shape. In some places, there were no facilities at all,” he said.


Puneet Dalmia, Managing Director of the Dalmia Bharat Group said, “We are honored to have adopted one of India’s top heritage sites. At Dalmia Bharat, we take pride in Indian culture and practice it in the workplace. For us, it is an extension of what we believe in. Adopting a Heritage Project is a unique endeavor by the Ministry of Tourism which envisions developing monuments, heritage and tourist sites across India to enhance their tourism potential and cultural importance. We look forward to adding value to India’s heritage sites in every possible manner.”

The MoU envisages Dalmias to start work within 30 days and complete two tasks before PM Modi’s Independence Day address from Red Fort. These are front facade lighting and an art installation for the Independence Day event.

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The contract requires Dalmias to provide certain basic amenities within six months like drinking water kiosks, street furniture-like benches and shop signage while one-year targets include tactile maps, upgraded toilets, lighting up pathways and bollards, landscaping, building a 1000 sq ft visitors facility centre, 3-D projection mapping of Red Fort interior and exterior, battery-operated vehicles and a thematic cafeteria.

Tasks that need to be completed within two years include setting-up exhibitions in cells under the Asad Burj, virtual reality-based monument interpretation, building night trails and structural illumination of the entire Red Fort. There are certain basic amenities that have to be provided within two years. These include installing turnstiles at checkpoints, fencing with sliding doors and tactile paving.


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