Adopt a heritage: A noble CSR initiative for preserving our Past glories for the future

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By Dr. Debadutta Mishra

India’s rich cultural heritages including numerous temples, palaces, monuments, forts etc stand as mute evidences of India’s glorious past and cultural diversities and have been attracting millions of tourists each year, with considerable growth in the number of tourists in the past 5 years. This has led to the increase in challenges to provide safety, comfort & hospitality of tourism and simultaneously keeping up ways and means to boost India’s image as a destination for tourism.

Tourism industry has a major contribution not only in the economic development of a region but also to that of our country. Therefore, it’s the collective responsibility of all stakeholders and citizens at large, to protect and preserve the thousand years old heritage sites which are facing common challenges of deterioration day by day and dire need of maintenance and protection of their various infrastructural as well as service assets.

The need to develop a effective mechanism for the provision of basic amenities on an immediate basis and advanced amenities on a long term basis, have been felt during the recent few years. A good number of heritage sites have not yet gained focus or attraction from the tourist population, because of lack of good road connectivity or lack of basic amenities like toilets, safe drinking water and sanitation etc, at the heritage site.

Besides these there is need of providing universal accessibility at each heritage site for people with disabilities or people suffering from any kind of disease, dysfunction or old age.

Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan, is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and State/UTs  Governments. The Project aims to develop synergy among all partners to effectively promote responsible tourism.

Adopt a heritage is envisioned to synergize with other Infrastructure development schemes in collaboration with Ministry of Culture and other Ministries, with the idea of positioning tourism as a driving force for targeting more Foreign Tourist Arrivals as well as Domestic Tourist Arrivals, building synergy in the development of amenities across the identified heritage sites, enhancing overall tourist experience and economic development of the region.

In September 2017 on World Tourism Day, the ministry of tourism, govt of India initiated the scheme of Adopt a heritage and released a complete guideline and project for development of tourist friendly destinations with an aim to involve public sector companies, private sector companies and corporate citizens/individuals to take up the responsibility for making our heritage and tourism more sustainable through development, operation and maintenance of world-class tourist infrastructure and amenities at ASI/ State heritage sites and other important tourist sites in India.

They would become Monument Mitras through the innovative concept of “Vision Bidding”, where the agency with best vision  for the heritage site will be given an opportunity to associate pride with their CSR activities. They would also get limited visibility in the premises and the Incredible India website. The aim is enhancement of tourist experience and promotion of the incredible heritage sites to bring them on tourism map.

Recently after the The Ministry of Tourism signed an MoU with Dalmia Bharat and the Archaeological Survey of India to adopt the iconic Red Fort monument in New Delhi and Gandikota Fort in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project, there have been hue and cry in social sites by misleading media people and other fake agencies that Govt of India is selling Red Fort at a cost of INR 25 crore.

The fact is that, the cement manufacturing company joins “monument mitras” including other private sector companies, which will look after the operations and maintenance of the site for five years, with a budget of more than Rs 5 crore per year. Under the project, it will construct, landscape, illuminate and maintain activities related to provision and development of tourist amenities. This includes basic and advanced amenities such as public conveniences, clean drinking water, cleanliness of the monument, accessibility for all, signage, cloakroom facilities, illumination and night viewing, surveillance system, tourist facilitation-cum-interpretation centre.

Keeping in mind the easy accessibility to the differently-abled visitors, there will be ramps and toilet facilities for the differently-abled. Facilities like wheelchairs, battery-operated vehicles, braille signages are some of the key additions, which will make the Red Fort a barrier-free monument.

Dalmia Bharat will also assist in controlling the advanced tourist flow management system linked with carrying capacity of the monuments, including light and sound shows with regular cultural shows and facilitation of night visits to the monuments and advanced surveillance system like pan-tilt-zoom CCTV cameras are also to be installed.

The ministry on Tuesday also awarded the Letters of Intent to nine agencies for 22 monuments of Phase-IV of the scheme, including the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh, Chittorgarh Fort in Rajasthan, Mehrauli Archeological Park and Gol Gumbad in Delhi.

Adopt a heritage is project can be simply explained as a strategy similar to the way Indira Gandhi International airport, New Delhi being operated and maintained by Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), a consortium led by GMR group since May 2006, which was earlier maintained by the Indian Air Force and then Airports Authority of India.  If one can study the reason behind transfer of operation and management of an international airport from a public sector agency to a private sector enterprise, he or she may never question on the idea of Adopt a heritage project.

This is expected that the private parties would be much better equipped to maintain heritage sites than large, over-burdened organizations like the Archaeological Survey of India. “Even people don’t care about monuments when they are handled by the government,” he said. “Everybody scribbles on heritage structures and desecrates them. But with private security staff, people would not be able to do this.”

No doubt it’s a noble approach and initiative by Government of India to engage Corporate social responsibility to preserve grories of our past for our future. It is also clarified that ‘The Adopt a Heritage’ is essentially a non-revenue generating project. It is part of responsible tourism where the ‘Monument Mitra’ essentially spends his CSR funds for upkeep and maintenance etc., and gets limited visibility. The agency was selected on the basis of unique concept of vision bid and no financial bid is involved.

Dr. Debadutta Mishra is the Associate Editor at India CSR Network. He can be reached at ddmishraonline@gmail.com

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Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR Network and its Editor.

References: https://scroll.inhttps://www.firstpost.comhttp://pib.nic.in

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