What is it?
The ‘Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan’ scheme is an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India. It was launched in September 2017 on World Tourism Day by President Ram Nath Kovind. Under it, the government invites entities, including public sector companies, private sector firms as well as individuals, to develop selected monuments and heritage and tourist sites across India. Development of these tourist sites calls for providing and maintaining basic amenities, including drinking water, ease of access for the differently abled and senior citizens, standardised signage, cleanliness, public conveniences and illumination, along with advanced amenities such as surveillance systems, night-viewing facilities and tourism facilitation centres. The sites/monument are selected on the basis of tourist footfall and visibility and can be adopted by private and public sector companies and individuals — known as Monument Mitras — for an initial period of five years. The Monument Mitras are selected by the ‘oversight and vision committee,’ co-chaired by the Tourism Secretary and the Culture Secretary, on the basis of the bidder’s ‘vision’ for development of all amenities at the heritage site. There is no financial bid involved. The corporate sector is expected to use corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds for the upkeep of the site. The Monument Mitras, in turn, will get limited visibility on the site premises and on the Incredible India website. The oversight committee also has the power to terminate a memorandum of understanding in case of non-compliance or non-performance.
How did it come about?
This is not the first time the government has tried to rope in the corporate sector to help maintain tourist sites and monuments. In one such attempt, the government in 2011 formed a National Culture Fund. Since then, 34 projects have been completed under it through public-private partnerships. Another similar scheme under the UPA government was ‘Campaign Clean India,’ in which the government had identified 120 monuments/destinations. Under this scheme, the India Tourism Development Corporation had adopted Qutab Minar as a pilot project in 2012, while ONGC adopted six monuments — Ellora Caves, Elephanta Caves, Golkonda Fort, Mamallapuram , Red Fort and Taj Mahal — as part of its CSR.
Why does it matter?
The project kicked up a storm after reports that private entity Dalmia Bharat, under an MoU, would build infrastructure and maintain the iconic Red Fort. Dalmia Bharat has committed ₹25 crore for the purpose. The Opposition termed it an attack on the idea of India, alleging that the government was handing over the symbol of India’s independence to private parties. The government said the scheme would help to increase tourist footfall.
What lies ahead?
Notwithstanding criticism, the government intends to expand the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme. Under the scheme, the government has put up a list of over 93 ASI monuments that can be bid for by private and public sector firms, as well as individuals. This is a pretty small list, as the ASI protects 3,686 ancient monuments and archaeological sites, including 36 world heritage sites. So far, 31 agencies or Monument Mitras have been approved to adopt 95 monuments/tourist sites. However, only four MoUs have been signed. These are between the Ministry of Tourism, the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India and the Government of Jammu & Kashmir for Mt. Stok Kangri, Ladakh; the Ministry of Tourism, the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India and the Uttarakhand government for trail to Gaumukh; the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Culture, the ASI and Dalmia Bharat for the Red Fort (in Delhi) and the Gandikota Fort (in Andhra Pradesh). The government is hopeful of expediting the MoUs with selected entities in the next two months.