Why Red Fort is in the eye of a storm

Dr Amna Mirza | May 7, 2018


#Red Fort   #Mounuments  

With the recent agreement between Tourism ministry and Dalmia Bharat under ‘Adopt a Heritage’ plan, the Red Fort is stepping into the eye of a storm. The adoption is being pegged as a non-revenue generation exercise which will also boost tourism.

Concerns over handout to private sector are being allayed by the government stating that it was a party parliamentary committee. No doubt that preservation, brand visibility, corporate social responsibility and innovation in governance deserve appreciation. However noble aims and grandiose plans do not account for success of policy.

The tourism ministry’s announcement of an agreement with Dalmia Bharat allowing the private firm to “adopt” the Red Fort has triggered sharp responses from political parties and a section of civil society over fears of handover of a monument that has stood as a symbol of national integration. 

The move has triggered sharp criticism from political parties and a section of civil society. Doubts are being raised whether it is a maintenance contract or a concealed lease agreement. Furthermore, the fort has been adopted by only Rs 25 crores which is too less in front of the money being spent on advertisements, not to forget the colossal amount for Sardar Patel statue. How is it possible that the same government does not have Rs 25 crores for the maintenance of the Red Fort.

If cost-benefit analysis is the yardstick, then why not allow private players looking at the fact that there is a long list of Monument Mitras, to construct the planned statues in Gujarat and Maharashtra, and thereby save revenues of exchequer.

Such money minded politics inhibit the development of the state. With present institutional arrangements and challenges, will the crony capitalists lend help in adopting the mission to eradicate poverty, unemployment, etc.?

By saying that private players would be allowed for branding, it is akin to legitimacy for introduction of market mechanisms. The move is being implemented without giving due thought on the alternatives of monuments’ maintenance.

One can sense the process of privatisation. It cannot be neglected that privatisation has been embarked even by most conservative governments across the world.

Time will be better answer to the perplexing question that whether it will be a decisive break from hitherto model of management of our historical reserves. One needs to analyse future path dependency too, as this initial restructuring will impact further evolution of ownership patterns.

Public private partnerships have several interpretations of their cooperation which are becoming much more sophisticated now.
The success of any such collaboration should be gauged not from merely fiscal aspect but also from the societal change it brings. Further to establish its advantages is a difficult exercise.

Private money has entered in all avenues of public plain, so why not historical monuments as well. Idea of adopting heritage was even welcomed by Vajpayee regime and other later governments too. Indian legacy is too expensive and strong that it can be wiped out by any Fort row.

Dr Mirza is assistant professor, political science, University of Delhi
 

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