Red Fort adoption for better maintenance, says KJ Alphons

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The Red Fort has been "adopted" by the Dalmia Bharat Group for five years under the Government of India's "Adopt a Heritage" scheme.

The Dalmia group, under the memorandum of understanding, would maintain the monument and build basic infrastructure around it and has committed a sum of Rs 25 crore for the objective over a period spanning five years.

The defence is that the scheme launched a year ago is to attract public participation to develop heritage monuments.

Under the scheme, the companies that will manage the sites will also produce historical guides. It is part of responsible tourism where the "Monument Mitra" essentially spends its CSR funds for upkeep and maintenance and gets limited visibility. And the contract is only for Rs. 25 crores. "We have not spent or received any money on this. If they are spending money, there is nothing wrong in taking credit for it", he said.

He said former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sought corporate partnerships for preservation of heritage. "We are not allowing any of these "monument mitras" to do any restoration inside the monument at all".

If their concern is profits, sooner or later they will take decisions that exploit the monuments or heritage sites to maximise opportunities for profit and self-advertisement.

The Dalmia Bharat group has agreed to provide certain basic amenities at the 17th century monument within six months.

The ministry said 31 public and private entities have been approved so far to adopt 95 monuments across India. Sources said ITC Hotels and GMR are among frontrunners for adopting the Taj Mahal.

In September 2017 on World Tourism Day, the ministry of tourism, govt of India initiated the scheme of Adopt a heritage and released a complete guideline and project for development of tourist friendly destinations with an aim to involve public sector companies, private sector companies and corporate citizens/individuals to take up the responsibility for making our heritage and tourism more sustainable through development, operation and maintenance of world-class tourist infrastructure and amenities at ASI/ State heritage sites and other important tourist sites in India.

The Adopt a Heritage plan consists of nearly 100 sites, including the iconic Taj Mahal, which is now being contested by two bidders.

Monument mitras are picked through a "vision bidding" process in which those with the best plan for the heritage sites are chosen. This includes basic and advanced amenities such as public conveniences, clean drinking water, cleanliness of the monument, accessibility for all, signage, cloakroom facilities, illumination and night viewing, surveillance system, tourist facilitation-cum-interpretation centre.

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