With opposition parties denouncing the government for “handing over the Red Fort to a private entity”, the Ministry of Tourism clarified on Saturday that the agreement signed with the Dalmia Bharat Limited was “only for development, operations and maintenance of tourism amenities” in and around the 17th century monument and envisaged limited “access” to non-core areas.
The Dalmia Bharat Group, under a 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.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, the CPI(M) and the TMC, slammed the government for virtually handing over the symbol of India’s Independence to a corporate.
“The MoU is ‘only’ for the development, operations and maintenance of tourism amenities in and around the Red Fort. It envisages limited ‘access’ of non-core areas and ‘no handing over of monument’ is involved,” the ministry said.
It is clarified that ‘The Adopt a Heritage’ is essentially a non-revenue generating project. It is part of responsible tourism where the ‘Monument Mitra’ essentially spends its CSR funds for upkeep and maintenance and gets limited visibility.
“The agency was selected on the basis of unique concept of vision bid and no financial bid is involved,” a ministry statement read.
An MoU has been signed between the Ministry of Tourism, the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) and the Jammu and Kashmir government for Mt Stok Kangri, Ladakh.
An agreement was inked by “the Ministry of Tourism, the ATOAI, and the Uttarakhand government for trail to Gaumukh.
MoUs were also signed between the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Culture, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Dalmia Bharat Limited for Red Fort in Delhi, and the Gandikota Fort in Andhra Pradesh, it said.
“Under the project, 31 agencies referred as ‘Monument Mitras’ have been approved so far to adopt 95 monuments/ tourist sites located across India. The project aims 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 statement read.
The project primarily focusses on providing basic amenities including cleanliness, public conveniences, drinking water, ease of access for differently abled and senior citizens, standardised signage, illumination and advanced amenities such as surveillance system, night viewing facilities, tourism facilitation center and an enhanced tourism experience.
Accusing the BJP, the Congress asked how the government could lease out a heritage place to a private entity.
“After handing over the Red Fort to the Dalmia group, which is the next distinguished location that the BJP government will lease out to a private entity? #IndiaSpeaks,” the party’s Twitter handle posted.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday came down heavily on the Center for leasing out the the historic Red Fort in New Delhi and the Gandikota Fort in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh to a corporate house.
Describing the Red Fort as the “symbol of the nation” and the day as the “sad and dark day in our history”, Banerjee questioned why the central government was unable to take care of the historical fort.
“Why can’t the Government even take care of our historic Lal Qila? Red Fort is a symbol of our nation. It is where India”s flag is hoisted on Independence Day. Why should it be leased out?,” Banerjee tweeted on Saturday evening.