Dalmia Group 'adopts' Red Fort: Opposition parties accuse Modi government of 'selling' historic monument to corporates
The Centre's decision to let Dalmia Bharat maintain the iconic Lal Qila under its 'Adopt a Heritage' project was strongly opposed by the Congress, the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress.
NEW DELHI: Opposition parties today questioned the government's move to allow a private entity to maintain the iconic Red Fort, days after a corporate house signed an agreement with the tourism ministry under its 'Adopt a Heritage' project.
The Congress on Saturday took potshots at the BJP over The Dalmia Bharat Group signing an agreement with the tourism ministry.
It posted a poll on Twitter, asking neizens which monument would be next “leased out to a private entity” in the country.
The Dalmia Bharat Group, under the memorandum of understanding, would maintain the 17th-century monument and build basic infrastructure around it and has committed a sum of Rs 25 crore for the purpose over a period spanning five years.
Sources in the know claimed the Dalmia Bharat group bagged the contract for Rs 25 crore after beating IndiGo Airlines and GMR group.
“The President announced a government scheme on World Tourism Day in 2017 that those interested in value addition to any service of monuments can come forward. Some services of the Red Fort has been given to Dalmia Group. No profit activity will take place,” Union tourism and culture minister Mahesh Sharma said.
Poll tweeted by Congress:
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
Under the scheme, private, public sector companies and corporate individuals are invited to adopt heritage sites for promoting sustainable tourism through conservation and for developing them.
The first-of-its-kind adoption enables Dalmia group to construct, landscape, illuminate and maintain activities related to provision and development of tourist amenities.
In addition to promoting sustainable tourism through conservation, Dalmia Bharat will also introduce other key amenities for the visitors like app-based multilingual audio-guide, digital interactive kiosk, digital screen, free W-Fi and cafeteria along with souvenir shop which will help in promoting local art and craftsmanship.
The decision opposed by the Congress, the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress, which slammed the government for virtually handing over the symbol of India's Independence to a corporate.
"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 said, "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."
"Can you barter out the symbol of freedom movement like the Red Fort to his corporate friends for maintenance," Surjewala said.
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee 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."
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.
It said that the Red Fort is a symbol of Independent India and handing over the monument to a corporate entity was "nothing short of blasphemous".
Responding to the allegations, Minister of State for Tourism K J Alphons said under the scheme started 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 said.
In a statement, the tourism ministry said the agreement signed for 'Red Fort 'is only' for the development, operations and maintenance of tourism amenities in and around the monument and envisages limited 'access' of non-core areas, the tourism ministry said today in response to allegations of the opposition parties that the Red Fort was being handed over to private entities.
Adopt a Heritage scheme is for development, maintenance & operation of Tourism amenities in monuments; Project envisages limited access to non-core areas and no handing over of monuments: @tourismgoi @alphonstourism @dr_maheshsharma @MinOfCultureGoI https://t.co/N444OBSkMn— PIB Tourism (@PIBTour) April 28, 2018
As of March this year, 31 prospective 'Monument Mitras' (friends of heritage sites) have been shortlisted by a oversight and vision committee for developing tourist-friendly amenities at 95 monuments, heritage and other tourist sites including the Red Fort, Qutub Minar (in Delhi), Hampi (Karnataka), Sun Temple (Odisha), Ajanta Caves (Maharashtra), Char Minar (Telangana) and Kaziranga National Park (Assam).
Earlier, criticising the government, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera asked, "What is your commitment to the idea of India, to the history of India?" IndiGo Airlines and the GMR group were also in the race to bag the project.
The Dalmia group has also 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.
Meanwhile, Minister State of Culture Mahesh Sharma, said that it was a great initiative and would greatly help make heritage sites more attractive for tourists.
The President announced a scheme of the government on World Tourism Day, 2017 that those interested in value addition to any services of monuments can come forward.
"Some services of the Red Fort has been given to the Dalmia group. No profit activity will take place," he said.
Piyush Goyal faces Opposition attack
New Delhi:The Congress on Saturday slammed Union minister Piyush Goyal on the alleged sale of shares held in a privately-held company at nearly 1,000 times the face value. Seeking his removal, it has also demanded probe into the matter.
It’s no secret that CA Piyush Goyal, the BJP Treasurer, has pried open the doors of every major corporate house for PM Modi.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) April 28, 2018
How then will the PM act against this Minister, caught red handed, misusing his power for 48 Cr. of personal gain?#GoyalMustResign
Referring to a story by a news website, the Congress alleged Goyal had sold in September 2014, the entire stock of the privately-held company he and his wife owned, at nearly 1,000 times the face value to a group owned by Ajay Piramal, without informing the PMO. The transaction took place four months after Goyal became a minister. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said the deal “has exposed one of the senior most minister”.
(with PTI inputs)