The controversy raked by opposition leaders over the Adopt a Heritage plan of the Union Government is a needless one. The Government has invited the participation of corporate to help in the upkeep of national monuments and sites. This would mean improving basic amenities such as toilet facilities, provision of cloakrooms, basic cleanliness of the spots, better crowd management etc.
One corporate house engaged in the cement business has already been given the task for the iconic Red Fort. The involvement of private entities in the maintenance of national heritage is a common feature across the world and has fetched good results. If our national monuments and sites are well-maintained and well promoted, they can serve a dual purpose: One, they will enhance the value of our cultural legacies, and two, they will add to visitor footprints and consequent increase in revenues. Unfortunately, opposition parties have taken umbrage at the idea, and they have been levelling wild allegations against the Government.
One accusation is that the Centre is ‘giving away’ our heritage to the highest private bidder and thus reducing the importance of national monuments and sites There is no ‘giving away’ of any sort; on the contrary, it is a welcome move to enhance its importance. The Government’s decision is not unilateral — a parliamentary panel had suggested such a step. The other criticism is that corporates who have no expertise of maintaining monuments are certain to mess up the task.
For decades, Government agencies have been engaged in the upkeep, and obviously they have not always been up to the task. Moreover, it is not as if the private entities are going to be doing tasks that require expertise in restoration etc; they would be engaged in the maintenance of civic facilities in and around the monuments and sites. Surely this constitutes no threat to the rich cultural heritage. India is fortunate to have a number of historical sites and structures that ought to be better marketed. It’s not just about revenues, but also about the imperative to inform the world about the country’s richness in cultural heritage.
India’s civilisational history is the envy of the world, but unfortunately it does not attract as many visitors as other sites in other countries do. Besides the Taj Mahal and a few spots in Rajasthan, there are hardly any other monuments and sites in the country that are a ‘must-visit’ in the itinerary of foreign tourists — or Indian visitors for that matter. This must change.