Most services at Red Fort are already outsourced

 The numerous guards at the Mughal-era monument are provided by a private security agency.

The numerous guards at the Mughal-era monument are provided by a private security agency.

There is much furore over the Red Fort being ‘adopted’ by the Dalmia Bharat Group, a private company, to provide tourist amenities at the monument, but in reality most of the tourist facilitation services at the fort are already outsourced.

The audio tour is provided by a company called Narrowcasters, the toilets are maintained by Sulabh International, the entry tickets have been ‘powered by’ Canara Bank and the guards are from a private security agency.

Tourists at the Red Fort on Friday afternoon seemed to be happy with the facilities being provided at the UNESCO World Heritage site and felt that the Centre’s Monument Mitra scheme would only better the facilities.

‘Must keep eye on firm’

Chandrashekhar Rao from Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, said: “We arrived with a lot of luggage as we have to catch a train in the evening so we used the cloak room facility as well as the toilets. We also picked up the audio guide. It is nice to see that there are no touts trying to fleece tourists.”

He added that the ‘Adopt a Monument’ scheme would work as long as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) keeps a close watch on the private player so that the beauty of the fort is not ruined by branding.

Pradeep Gupta, owner of a shop in Chhatta Bazaar inside the fort, said that he has been working in the monument for the past 50 years and feels that the roping in of a private player to provide facilities will enhance experience of visitors.

Facilities improved

“Look at how the Aga Khan Trust has changed the face of Humayun’s Tomb and Nizamuddin Basti. It is a shining example of how money from those patronising heritage can help with the upkeep of monuments,” said Mr. Gupta. He added that the issue was being politicised unnecessarily and some people are spreading propaganda that the government has “leased” the Mughal-era fort to a private party.

“The truth is that the ASI will continue with its expertise of conserving the fort and it will let private players handle the functioning of food courts and toilets,” he claimed.

There are some employees, however, who are a slightly jittery about the adoption scheme.

‘Will we still have a job?’

A government tour guide who did not wish to be named said: “There are several people who work with me here doing jobs like issuing tickets and cleaning the premises. We are all wondering whether we will still have jobs once the private company takes over. In my experience, no visitor to the Red Fort complains about the lack of facilities.”

Meanwhile, the Delhi Congress carried out a protest against the Monument Mitra scheme. Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken said it was a “conspiracy” of the Narendra Modi government to “sell or lease” the historic fort. He added that Congress workers would contribute ₹5 crore every year to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund if needed, but would oppose the privatisation of monuments.

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Printable version | May 19, 2022 2:10:08 pm |