Monumental move: Why giving the upkeep of the Red Fort to a private firm is a good move

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Published: May 1, 2018 3:08:40 AM

Given the state of disrepair, and the near absence of attractive facilities for tourists in most Indian monuments, the furore over the government’s decision to sign a contract with the Dalmia Group to maintain the Red Fort is inexplicable; more so given the fact that even the UPA had contemplated roping in private players for looking after various monuments.

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Given the state of disrepair, and the near absence of attractive facilities for tourists in most Indian monuments, the furore over the government’s decision to sign a contract with the Dalmia Group to maintain the Red Fort is inexplicable; more so given the fact that even the UPA had contemplated roping in private players for looking after various monuments. The Dalmias will not be allowed to open shops in the Red Fort or conduct exhibitions/shows or even minor repairs without the consent of a ‘monument committee’; in other words, the sanctity of the Red Fort is not going to be tampered with. If the government feels that a monument committee with two bureaucrats, an architect and a representative of Dalmia is not good enough, maybe supervision of ASI can be written in?

At a time when the government of India does not have the money to look after all of India’s monuments, leave alone develop attractive facilities for tourists around the monument or staging plays or shows about their history, it has to be a dog-in-the-manger approach that doesn’t allow private sector players to pitch in. There is a fear historians have raised about the private partner being more interested in commercial activities than in preserving the monuments, but then why not train ASI to play a more active role in supervision? Indeed, there are historians who will tell you that ASI itself has no standard protocols for dealing with restoration.

The world over, the private sector is roped into looking after monuments and the results have mostly been positive. In India, too, the Aga Khan Trust was roped in to work on restoring the Humayun’s Tomb some years ago and no one can say it was not a worthwhile partnership; the Infosys Foundation has been instrumental in renovation of the Somanatheshwara Temple in Karnataka and there are several other such examples. If we want to protect our heritage and the government doesn’t have the funds to do this—and we’re not even talking of ideas—the private sector has to be brought in.

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