The Congress on Saturday questioned how a private entity was given the mandate to maintain the iconic Red Fort, days after a corporate house signed an agreement with the tourism ministry under its ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project.
The Dalimia Bharat 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 purpose over a period spanning five years.
“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 dearth of funds. Why funds for the Archaeological Survey of India lapse, why do they lapse. See the Comptroller and Auditor General reports. If they have paucity of funds, then why do they lapse?” he asked.
IndiGo Airlines and the GMR group were also in the race to bag the project.
The Dalmia Bharat group has agreed to provide certain basic amenities at the 17th century monument within six months. These include providing drinking water kiosks, street furniture-like benches and signages to guide the visitors, according to the ministry.
The entity has also agreed to put up within a year tactile maps, upgrade toilets, light up the pathways and bollards, carry out restoration work and landscaping and build a 1,000-square-foot visitor facility centre.
It will also provide a 3-D projection mapping of the fort’s interior and exterior, battery-operated vehicles and charging stations for such vehicles and a thematic cafeteria.
Responding to Khera’s remarks, Minister of State for Tourism K J 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.
As of March this year, 31 prospective ‘monument mitras’ (friends of heritage sites) have been shortlisted by a oversight and vision committee for developing tourist-friendly amenities at 95 monuments, heritage and other tourist sites including the Red Fort, Qutub Minar (in Delhi), Hampi (Karnataka), Sun Temple (Odisha), Ajanta Caves (Maharashtra), Char Minar (Telangana) and Kaziranga National Park (Assam).
Photograph: Saumya Khandelwal/Reuters