Alphons writes to culture ministry to expedite heritage adoption scheme
Union minister of state for tourism KJ Alphons has written to culture minister Mahesh Sharma asking him to expedite the process of allowing private companies to adopt historical monuments for maintaining amenities for tourists under the government’s much-touted ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme.
Alphons confirmed he wrote a letter to Sharma for more cooperation but refused to divulge further details.
Sources in the tourism ministry said Alphons is of the view that lack of co-operation from lower rank officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is defeating the purpose of the whole scheme.
“Alphons believes that ASI’s non-cooperation has halted the progress of the scheme and the culture minister, under whose jurisdiction the ASI falls, should redress this immediately,” a senior tourism ministry official familiar with the issue said.
Sharma, however, denied receiving the letter.
“However, the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme is still on and we have neither abandoned it nor put it on hold. The two ministries are working in perfect tandem to implement the scheme successfully,” he said.
The scheme envisages private parties ‘adopting’ monuments to pay for their from their CSR (corporate social responsibility) budget. It was launched by the President of India on World Tourism Day on September 27, 2017.
It was mired into a controversy when on April 23, the tourism ministry along with culture ministry and ASI announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with leading corporate group Dalmia Bharat to maintain basic and advance amenities at the historic Red Fort in Delhi.
According to the terms of the MoU, Dalmia Bharat will spend ₹5 crore annually for five years to make available certain basic and advanced amenities. Soon after signing the MoU, the opposition parties accused the government of bartering away the “symbol of freedom”.
“Since then the tourism minister feels that the scheme hasn’t been progressing the way it should,” another tourism ministry official, who is part of the scheme, said.
“Dalmia Bharat has already submitted a comprehensive work plan on May 31 as per the term of the MoU. But due to non-cooperation of the ASI officials of the lower rank, the scheme is moving at the snail’s pace,” the official added.
The oversight committee, comprising senior officials of the two ministries, has till now shortlisted 31 companies for developing tourist-friendly amenities at 95 sites, in including the Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Hampi, Sun Temple, Ajanta Caves, Char Minar etc.
“The tourism minister in his letter justified the scheme and said that it would bring a lot of tourists to the country as most of the tourism in India is based on heritage. The scheme was conceived with the idea that it would improve the basic infrastructure and upkeep of the monuments,” the source added.
Tourism experts like SK Mishra, the former secretary with the tourism ministry, supported the scheme, saying that private companies will add to the infrastructure, landscaping and other facilities.