A political controversy has broken out over the Dalmia Bharat group, a private company, winning an unprecedented MoU to 'adopt' the iconic Red Fort in Delhi.
The award is via the Ministry of Tourism's "Adopt a Heritage" project and has been won for a reported Rs 25 crore, beating bids from IndiGo Airlines and the GMR Group. There are over 93 monuments up for adoption, as per the project's official website, out of which 4 have been adopted so far.
Icons of the Taj Mahal, India Gate, Charminar, Gateway of India and Murudeshwar temple can be seen on the website, which says the following about itself:
"The project plans to entrust heritage sites/monuments and other tourist sites to private sector companies, public sector companies and individuals for the development of tourist amenities. They would become 'Monument Mitras' and adopt the sites. The basic and advanced amenities of the tourist destinations would be provided by them. They would also look after the operations and the maintenance of the amenities.
The project would begin with 93 ASI ticketed monuments and would be expanded to other natural and cultural sites across India. The heritage sites are classified into various categories. The 'Monument Mitras' would take up the sites of varied visibility and footfall as a package.
The 'Monument Mitras' would associate pride with their CSR activities. They would also get visibility in the monument premises and in the Incredible India website.The project aims to develop synergy among all partners."
The contract reportedly envisions the group 'developing' the monument over five years to make it more tourist-friendly. The first step will be to upgrade the lighting, after which it'll be handed over to the government ahead of the Prime Minister's speech on Independence Day.
The Congress has hit out over the move, issuing the following poll on social media:
The Trinamool Congress also picked up the issue, with Derek O'Brien writing:
Speaking to Republic TV, Union Minister for Culture Mahesh Sharma said that the move had received a positive response and that the adoption was for value addition and development only. 116 monuments would be adopted but there would be no monetary gain mentioned in the MoU, he clarified, adding that it was a move to boost tourism.
The Delhi-headquartered Dalmia Group is into cement, sugar, power and other businesses.