In an age when the sponsor is king, cricket-obsessed Indians find nothing amiss if the OPPO Mobiles India group (its parent company is the Chinese multinational BBK Electronics) is the official sponsor of Team India. But allowing a corporate group (desi or foreign) to adopt a heritage monument or site is another matter altogether, for these are iconic symbols linked to group pride, and therefore with identity politics. The upkeep of such monuments requires money however, which fund-strapped governments are increasingly reluctant to fork out. The UPA government had initiated ‘Campaign Clean India’ and set up a National Culture Fund to encourage public-private partnerships in adopting heritage sites and monuments. But the NDA government, aiming to take this initiative to a higher level, rolled out the ‘Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan’ scheme in September 17 last year on the occasion of World Tourism Day. It wants private and public sector companies to take responsibility as ‘Monument Mitras’ and provide basic amenities for at least five years initially. There has been much public angst in Assam over the move to “hand over” Kaziranga national park and Ahom-era monuments like Rang Ghar, Kareng Ghar and Shiva Doul to a private group. The Assam government has now opted out of the project, deciding to go for a Rs 37 crore project on its own to maintain heritage sites and monuments. There is a similar uproar by opposition parties in the country’s capital over the Dalmia group being allowed to adopt Red Fort, from whose ramparts the Prime Minister gives his I-Day speech every year. So the people are now saddled with another issue for political parties to posture over — is the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme akin to pawning off family jewels, or is it an initiative to get the private sector pay for a good cause (albeit in return for some advertising visibility)? It boils down to how much money the people think the government has to spend on pressing social concerns.
Adopting a Heritage