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More sites to be included under adopt a heritage: Tourism Minister KJ Alphons

The ministry had previously said 31 public and private entities have been approved so far to adopt 95 monuments across India.

, ET Bureau|
May 02, 2018, 09.49 AM IST
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Alphons also said the criteria or the ‘vision bidding’ process will remain the same.
NEW DELHI: Four days after being accused by the opposition parties of leasing out public monuments like the Red Fort to private entities, tourism minister KJ Alphons told ET the government will expand the number of sites under adopt a heritage to include many more monuments, sites like beaches and parks beyond the 95 envisaged by the ministry and will not make any changes to the current bidding terms and conditions.

The minister also said the ministry will reach out to Indian citizens for suggestions on which additional sites could be considered for adoption.

“We are going to expand the number to include many more monuments. We will keep on adding now. The parliament committee under Derek O’Brien had said this is a good idea and that we should go ahead with this. So the BMC people are making a noise about this..they have not seen what their own MPs have said about this. If somebody wants to adopt a beach, or a park, we will let them adopt a park,” he said.

"The idea is for communities and people to own up their own country. All the wisdom does not lie with the government alone. We are also leaving it now to the people to even suggest more sites so that we can include them. This is all about citizens of India owning up India. We want that sense of ownership in people,” he added.

Alphons also said the criteria or the ‘vision bidding’ process will remain the same. The ministry had previously said 31 public and private entities have been approved so far to adopt 95 monuments across India. Other adopted Delhi monuments include Purana Qila (NBCC), Jantar Mantar ( SBI Foundation), Qutub Minar (Yatra.com), and Safdarjung Tomb (Travel Corporation of India) besides monuments in other destinations like Sun Temple, Konark (TK International), Red Fort Agra (GMR Sports) Aguada Fort and Light House, Panjim, Goa (Drishti Lifesaving) and Gangotri Temple area and trail to Gaumukh (Adventure Tour Operator Association of India).

It was reported that the Dalmia Bharat Group had adopted the Red Fort in a contract worth Rs 25 crore over five years, sparking controversy, with the opposition alleging the government was leasing out public monuments to private entities.

Manish Amin, co founder of Yatra.com, which has been shortlisted as the ‘monument mitra’ for monuments like the Qutub Minar in Delhi, Hampi in Karnataka, the Leh Palace in Jammu and Kashmir and Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra said the aim behind the scheme is to improve the basic amenities around the monuments and make them as tourist friendly as possible. “ASI is involved and we are not touching any of these monuments but focusing on things like cleaning up around the area, providing facilities like drinking water, toilets and online ticketing. I am a non resident Indian and usually the biggest complaint from overseas tourists is about the areas around the monuments and the upkeep and that hurts. Nothing has been sold or bought. We had to create a vision document and that is what we did. In future, if we have the bandwidth and the government expands the list we will definitely consider taking up more monuments,” he said.

ITC Hotels, said to be a frontrunner for adopting the Taj Mahal declined to comment.

Following the uproar, the government had clarified that the scheme involves inviting both public and private sector companies to become ‘monument mitras’ and that the project is a non revenue generating one and no financial bids were involved. Monument mitras are picked through a ‘vision bidding’ process in which those with the best plan for the heritage sites are chosen. The project primarily focuses on providing basic amenities that include cleanliness, toilets, drinking water, ease of access for differently abled and senior citizens, standardised signage, illumination and advanced amenities such as surveillance systems, night viewing facilities, tourism facilitation centres and an enhanced tourism experience.

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