Remember the 2005 film “Bunty Aur Babli”, where the two crooks sold off the Taj Mahal? Well, the film has turned out to be quite prophetic now that the Government of India has given out the iconic Red Fort for adoption to cement maker Dalmia Bharat Group.
Here are 10 things you need to know about the adoption of the Red Fort:
1. The Red Fort has been “adopted” by the Dalmia Bharat Group for five years under the Government of India’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme.
2. A MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was recently signed by the Dalmia Bharat Group, Ministry of Tourism and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), where it was officially handed over to the company for Rs. 25 crore (Rs. 5 crore per year).
3. GMR Sports and IndiGo airlines were the other two strong contenders for the bid.
4. In a statement, the Dalmia Bharat Group said they will install advanced surveillance system like pan-tilt-zoom CCTV cameras at the Red Fort.
To increase tourist flow, the company will introduce light and sound shows, along with regular cultural shows, at the monument. Night visits to the iconic monument will also be facilitated.
5. It was on Sept 27, 2017, on the World Tourism Day, President Ram Nath Kovind launched the “Adopt a Heritage” project, where the Ministry of Tourism invited public and private sector companies and corporates to “adopt” a heritage site and help the government in its conservation and development.
6. Built in 1639 by the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Red Fort, spread across 255 acre of land, was the palace of his fortified capital Shahjahanabad. The Red Fort or Lal Quila was made of red sandstone and hence the name.
7. As per the ASI records, they have 3686 monuments to restore and maintain with a budget of Rs. 1200 crore, which means, each heritage site get not even Rs. 33 lakh per year for its upkeep.
8. However, the adoption of the Red Fort was welcomed by historians. Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple tweeted: “There’s a huge difference between Dalmia adopting, say, a haveli in Old Dilli and adopting the Red Fort itself. Tier 1 monuments are a nation’s crown jewels. They should not be played around with. Its even more worrying that corporates cannot be held responsible for any damage.”
9. The government faced criticisms from the opposition partied as well. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “It is a shame that BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi don’t even have Rs. 5 crore for the maintenance and supervision of the Red Fort. How will they run the country!”
10. West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee also went vocal against the Red Fort adoption. She 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.”
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.