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Updated: September 19, 2013 03:00 IST

Conservation efforts must involve local communities, says Manmohan

Madhur Tankha
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Aga Khan, Ratan Tata and Union Minister of Culture Chandresh Kumari Katoch at the inauguration of the Humayun's tomb after its restoration, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Aga Khan, Ratan Tata and Union Minister of Culture Chandresh Kumari Katoch at the inauguration of the Humayun's tomb after its restoration, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

“The key to the success of the Humayun’s Tomb restoration initiative is the public-private partnership”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday noted that India had one of the richest repositories of heritage in the world and asserted that it was critical to find practical and innovative ways to preserve and maintain its heritage.

Dr. Singh made the observation at a function organised at the Humayun’s garden tomb to mark the culmination of its restoration. The programme was attended by national and international guests from embassies and followers of the Aga Khan.

Commissioned by Humayun’s wife Haji Begum, the 16 century tomb is one of the jewels of Mughal architecture, and served as a model for the Taj Mahal. It has been restored to its pristine glory by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India.

Dr. Singh described Humayun’s Tomb as an important marker of our civilisation. He recalled that in November 2004, while speaking at the same spot on the occasion of the presentation of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, he expressed the hope that a public-private partnership could be created to maintain and restore historic monuments.

“Going by what I have seen and heard today, I think we have found a good model in the public-private partnership that has restored this great monument to its earlier glory. The key to the success of this conservation initiative has been a partnership between like-minded public and private agencies, seized with concern for the protection of the national heritage, and able to work in a transparent and inclusive manner with local communities. I hope this successful partnership will encourage both government and civil society institutions to forge similar alliances at all our world heritage sites,” he said.

He expressed happiness over the fact that the project provided 200,000 man-days of employment for master craftsmen. The project demonstrated the potential of conservation works to fulfil a significant government objective, he said.

“The increase in the number of visitors to this world heritage site will also translate into greater income through tourism. The resident communities of Hazrat Nizamuddin basti now benefit from improved urban infrastructure in health, education, water and sanitation as a by-product of this initiative… It also achieves the important objective of engaging local communities in conservation and providing them opportunities for vocational training. It is only thus that conservation in India can become truly meaningful.”

The Prime Minister pointed out that the responsibility to conserve and restore the nation’s heritage cannot simply be the sole preserve of government agencies. The involvement of the local communities who formed part of the ecosystem of this heritage was, therefore, essential in this effort. “I would like to congratulate the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, ASI and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust on the success of this endeavour.”

The Prime Minister also thanked the Aga Khan for his commitment to revitalising historic centres in India and abroad. “We are fortunate to count him as a great friend of Indian heritage and I have no doubt that we will be able to continue this rich partnership.”

The Aga Khan said, “Apart from expanding employment [for young people living in the Hazrat Nizamuddin basti], the effort has led to an increase in the number of visitors.”

Union Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch also spoke.

Sir Dorabji Tata Trust Chairman Ratan Tata sat on the podium but did not address the gathering. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, National Commission of Minorities Chairman Wajahat Habibullah were present. Author Vikram Seth, filmmaker-cum-designer Muzaffar Ali and designer Ritu Kumar were among the socialites present at the inauguration ceremony.

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