When the Hill Palace throws open its gates to the public next month after almost a year-long break, the Centre for Heritage Studies (CHS) authorities, entrusted with the maintenance of the sprawling garden spread over 52 acres and the adjoining deer park sequestering over 250 sambars and spotted deer in over two acres, may heave a sigh of relief.
The pandemic-induced closure of the tourist destination in last March was further extended by maintenance work, which is nearing completion, and it deprived CHS of the vital revenue stream.
The extended closure meant that the annual revenue by way of entry tickets that, despite seasonal fluctuations, averaged anything between ₹1.25 crore and ₹1.50 crore was suddenly lost, leaving CHS, an autonomous institution under the Cultural Department, solely dependent on government grants to meet its expenses.
As per the existing arrangement, CHS is entitled to 50% of ticket revenue plus government grants. So far this financial year, CHS has received a combined grant of ₹50 lakh under plan and non-plan funds.
“We have to meet all expenses, including those for the maintenance of the garden and deer park, salary, and office management, from the grant,” said K.V. Sreenath, CHS registrar and officer in charge of Hill Palace.
The drop in income had hit the running of the deer park, which entails a monthly expense of around ₹5.50 lakh towards feeding and treatment charge. The donation of ₹15 lakh for the upkeep of the park by Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited under its corporate social responsibility initiative came as a big relief.
Even during normal times, the deer park did not have an income stream and was dependent on the entry ticket revenue from the Hill Palace. “But the park was never affected in the past owing to paucity of funds,” said Mr. Sreenath.
The number of deer has registered a steep increase over the years, and a few animals had jumped the fencing in the past, following which it was mended. The death of adult animals and calves in 2018 also had left the CHS authorities worried. The deer park has no in-house veterinarians and has to fall back on outside help in times of need.