Minister defends entrusting Taj to private firm

Union Minister of State for Tourism K.J. Alphons
Union Minister of State for Tourism K.J. Alphons

NEW DELHI: Tourism Minister K J Alphons wonders, what was the problem in entrusting a private company with the task of restoring the Taj Mahal under the government’s Adopt-a-Heritage scheme, if Italy can turn to a footwear firm to restore the 2000-year-old Colosseum in Rome. Talking about the Adopt-a-Heritage scheme of the tourism ministry at an event here, he said it had run into controversy when the Red Fort was entrusted to the Dalmia Bharat Group, a cement company for maintenance, but the deal was proceeding as per plan.
The Taj Mahal is now on the list of monuments under the Adopt-a-Heritage scheme.”Large numbers of monuments are on the list under the scheme and Taj is also on the list. If the Colosseum can be adopted and managed by a footwear company why not the Taj?” he said when asked about the status of the Mughal monument under the scheme.

The scheme aims to entrust heritage sites, monuments and other tourist places to private companies, public sector undertakings and individuals for development of tourist amenities there. He further said that the scheme is a “big part of the government’s tourism policy” and encouraged NGOs and corporates to come forward and adopt more such monuments.
“It is the responsibility of all Indians to maintain the heritage of India. The monuments belong to every Indian. All the problems have been sorted out and we are working at a fast pace. The scheme is proceeding as per plan and the Prime Minister has been extremely supportive,” he said. The Supreme Court had last week came down heavily on the Centre and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for not being able to protect the iconic Taj Mahal, issuing a warning it will “shut it down” and the authorities should “demolish or restore” the structure.

The apex court was unhappy as the Uttar Pradesh government failed to come out with a vision document to protect the Taj Mahal. About the Colosseum, the 2000-year-old oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome was handed over to Tod’s, an Italian company that makes high-end shoes and leather bags in a 22m deal in 2011, for restoration.
The deal raked up a storm when media reports emerged that under the agreement; the luxury shoe brand had the right to use a logo of the monument on shoes, bags and other products for up to 15 years and will be able to stamp its logo on entry tickets. The company also is entitled to cover any restoration works with the Tod’s logo and enjoy other privileges such as exclusive access to the monument for company officials and their guests, according to reports.Taj Maha

However, in October 2017, when Rome’s Colosseum opened its top levels the first time in four decades to the public following a major restoration project, visitors were left awestruck by the sights at a height of 171-feet. In India though, the tourism ministry has clarified that under the scheme the adoptive agency or company, named Monument Mitras, would get limited visibility in the premises of the monument they adopt and on the Incredible India website.
“All we want is public participation,” said Alphons. Under the project 31 agencies have been approved, so far, to adopt a total of 95 Monuments/ tourist sites located across India. PTI

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