KOCHI: The Mattanchery Palace - dating back to the 16th century - is in for better times with the Centre on Thursday shortlisting a leading private tour operator under the Tourism Ministry’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme for the upkeep of the Portuguese-built palace.As per the plan, Travel Corporation of India Ltd., a subsidiary of Thomas Cook, will be responsible for looking after the operations and maintenance of amenities at the historical monument - also known as ‘Dutch Palace’ - built around 1545 AD. Interestingly, under the scheme, there were no takers for Taj Mahal, among the world’s most charming structures, while 13 other monuments received bids from private companies.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented Letters of Intent to seven shortlisted companies in a function held at Delhi on Thursday under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme, officers said.
The Centre’s move to rope in private players for the maintenance of historical monuments drew flak from experts. P J Cheriyan, Director of the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), told Express this kind of move is unacceptable.
“There are many historical monuments in bad shape and the government should spend money on reviving such monuments. These are already established monuments and there is no need for further investment. This is a wrong move in terms of heritage management,” Cheriyan said.
However, a Central Government statement said, by bringing in private players, Mattanchery Palace and other heritage sites will get basic and advanced amenities required for tourist destinations. In return, the companies will be allowed to advertise on the premises.
The final selection of companies will take place only after the process of ‘vision bidding and evaluation’ gets over by the end of November. The ‘Adopt A Heritage’ project plans to entrust heritage sites to public sector and private sector companies and individuals for the development of tourist amenities. President Ram Nath Kovind launched the scheme on the 37th edition of the World Tourism Day.
Besides Mattanchery Palace, the heritage monuments and sites snapped up for maintenance and upkeep by private players are Delhi’s Qutub Minar, Jantar Mantar, Purana Qila, Safdarjung’s Tomb and Agrasen ki Baoli; Odisha’s Sun Temple, Ratnagiri monuments and the Rajarani temple; the ruins of Hampi; Leh Palace; Ajanta and Ellora caves; Gangotri Temple premises and the Gomukh trail and Stok Kangri in Ladakh. While Yatra Online Pvt Ltd has been shortlisted for the maintenance of the 16th century Leh Palace, Hampi, Qutub Minar, Ajanta Caves, SBI Foundation has been shortlisted for looking after Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.