Opposition parties on Saturday took potshots at the Narendra Modi-led government for signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with corporate company Dalmia Bharat Limited under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project to maintain the iconic Red Fort.
Taking to Twitter, the Congress party posted a poll, asking, “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”
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
— Congress (@INCIndia) April 28, 2018
As per the MoU, the Dalmia Bharat Group would maintain the monument and build basic infrastructure around it within a budget of Rs 25 crore for the next five years. The Dalmia Bharat group has agreed to provide certain basic amenities at the 17th century monument within six months. These include providing drinking water kiosks, street furniture-like benches and signages to guide the visitors, according to the ministry.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is preparing to mortgage India’s symbol of Independence, the Red Fort to corporates. Does Modiji or BJP even understand the importance of Lal Quila?” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
He added, “Is it not true that the private company will now issue tickets to see the Red Fort? Is it not true that if anyone wants to do any commercial activity there, or any function, the private party has to be paid…?”
Another party spokesperson Pawan Khera said, “They are handing over the iconic monument to a private business. What is your commitment to the idea of India, to the history of India? We know you have no commitment, but we still want to ask you.”
“Do you have dearth of funds. Why funds for the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) lapse, why do they lapse. See the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) reports. If they have paucity of funds, then why do they lapse?” he added.
All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it was a “sad and dark day in our history”. “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 ? Sad and dark day in our history,” she tweeted.
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 ? Sad and dark day in our history
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) April 28, 2018
Deploring the move, the CPI (M) said that the government has virtually handed over the Red Fort to the Dalmia group. “The Dalmia group in its own press release has said that they will ‘have to own it for five years initially’ and the agreement gives them the freedom to make the Dalmia brand prominently visible. It has the right to use its brand name on all kinds of publicity material to be displayed during events organised at the site and also on all signages. In fact, it will be allowed to proclaim in a prominently displayed sign that the Red Fort has been adopted by Dalmia Bharat Limited”, the Left party said, adding that the fort is a symbol of Independent India and handing over the monument to a corporate entity was “nothing short of blasphemous”.
However, rubbishing the oppositions’ claims, Union minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma assured that no profit activity would take place under the covers. “President announced a scheme of GoI on World Tourism Day 2017, that those interested in value addition to any services of monuments can come forward. Some services of Red Fort has been given to Dalmia Group. No profit activity will take place,” he told ANI.
Minister of State for Tourism K J Alphons said under the scheme which was introduced last year, the ministry is looking at public participation to develop heritage monuments. “The companies involved in these projects will only spend and not make money. They will create amenities such as toilets, provide drinking water for the tourists so that their footfalls increase. They might put up signs outside to say that they have developed the amenities. If they are spending money, there is nothing wrong in taking credit for it,” he said.
“I want to ask the Congress what they did for the past 70 years. All the monuments and facilities around them are in terrible shape. In some places, there were no facilities at all,” he added.
The corporate entity has agreed to put up within a year tactile maps, upgrade toilets, light up the pathways and bollards, carry out restoration work and landscaping and build a 1,000-square-foot visitor facility centre. It will also provide a 3-D projection mapping of the fort’s interior and exterior, battery-operated vehicles and charging stations for such vehicles and a thematic cafeteria.
Besides the Dalmia group, IndiGo Airlines and the GMR group were in the race to bag the project.
(With PTI inputs)