NEW DELHI: Be prepared to see advertisements in which India’s heritage monuments, including the Taj Mahal and Khajuraho’s temples, will be calling out to you: “adopt me”.
Disappointed by the response from top corporate houses towards heritage conservation, despite tall claims of corporate social responsibility (CSR), the National Culture Fund (NCF), a trust under the Ministry of Culture has decided to bring out advertisements to remind them of their commitment to preserve India’s cultural heritage.
Two years ago, the NCF had written to corporate players, including Bharti Telecom, Reliance Communications, Hero Honda, Samsung, MRF, Aviva, Wipro, LG, Bata, Raymonds, Grasim, Maruti Udyog, Reliance Energy, Arvind Mills and PSUs MTNL and BHEL, seeking assistance. Along with the letter, the culture ministry had put out a list of 100 monuments for which they want assistance in conservation. Now it has decided to release these advertisements, as it’s yet to get any positive response from India Inc.
“The response we got for our letter was very disappointing. Except for a few PSUs, no private sector company has even bothered to respond. This despite the fact that they were all very proactive towards the collaborative attempt to protect our rich heritage,” said an official with the ministry.
“The ministry is planning to release these advertisements on the pages of in-flight magazines, to catch the attention of high-fliers,” added the official.
As of now, the NCF has undertaken seven projects, all of which are with PSUs. Initially, the corporates had shown some interest, and groups like Leela Hotel and Oberoi Group had undertaken some projects, including conservation of Humayun’s Tomb.
“Their interest may have waned as most of them realised there’s not much leverage in this, except the tax exemption part,’’ said the official. All contributions to the NCF will have 100 per cent tax exemption. Apart from these, corporates will get adequate spots to advertise in that particular site.
The NCF is also mulling giving a share of ticket collection to appease the corporates. It has proposed that they will be free to create business opportunities around the chosen monument or activity they sponsor, to “enhance their public image”.
But there is dissent within the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on the idea itself. “ASI has enough funds, and is well equipped to take up any kind of preservation work. All the government needs to do is fill up vacant posts in the body, instead of begging from corporates,” said an ASI official.
The NCF was created in 1996 with the purpose of creating “innovative patterns of cultural funding” in the country, by facilitating public-private partnership in the field of heritage conservation and promotion. Corporates who are interested in conservation are expected to sign a MoU with the NCF and the ASI. As per the MoU, ASI would duly acknowledge the contributions at the site and in its publications, while corporates will have the freedom to choose monuments of their choice.
Projects that can be sponsored under the scheme include environmental development in-and-around heritage sites, providing user-friendly amenities, illumination of monuments, structural conservation and refurbishment of the monuments, display of signage or direction boards. Promotional activities, in the form of concerts, cultural shows, community festivals, etc, can also be taken up by the corporate house.