It has been argued that the nation’s priceless pluralistic heritage is under threat of extinction from the practices adopted by private businesses due to the ‘Adopt a Heritage Scheme’.
What is the ‘Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan’ Scheme ?
- It is an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and was launched in 2017 on World Tourism Day (Sept 27).
- Under it, the government invites entities, including public and private sector firms as well as individuals (known as Monument Mitras), to develop selected monuments and heritage and tourist sites across India.
- The sites/monuments are selected on the basis of tourist footfall and visibility and can be adopted for an initial period of five years.
- The Monument Mitras are selected by the ‘oversight and vision committee,’ co-chaired by the Tourism Secretary and the Culture Secretary, on the basis of the bidder’s ‘vision’ for development of all amenities at the heritage site.
- The corporate sector is expected to use corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds for the upkeep of the site.
- The central government launched the revamped scheme (in February 2023) that may lead to the adoption of 500 protected sites by August 15 and another 500 sites shortly thereafter.
- This number represents a tenfold increase in the number of sites being brought under the ambit of the scheme of 2017.
Challenges in implementation –
- Businesses without expertise can adopt a site — For example, permitting a watch company in bridge engineering to maintain a colonial-era bridge in Morbi, Gujarat, possibly contributed to a heart-wrenching tragedy.
- Sidelines the mandate of the ASI and abandons ‘The Sarnath Initiative’ — To safely keep excavated objects and present them to visitors in an engaging manner.
- Selecting sites that already have infrastructure — For example, the stupas at Sanchi, the Brihadeshwar temple in Thanjavur, and Akbar’s palace city at Fatehpur Sikri.
- Creating non-essential infrastructure — For example, what is driving the need for new ticket offices and gift shops.
- Unsustainable construction activities — If excavations/construction are carried out around iconic monuments/sites, it may diminish them further.
- Undermine local communities and their relationships with historical sites — Guided tours led by employees of large businesses may endanger livelihoods of those who have lived near the site.
- Promoting brand, corporate interests over historical preservation — Businesses may alter the historical character of iconic monuments/sites without much opposition.
- According to media reports, the UP government has started turning monuments not adopted in the predetermined time frame into hotels.
- They include Chunar Fort, a citadel overlooking Barwasagar Lake, and several residences built by Awadh’s Nawabs.
How businesses can help to preserve National Heritage?
- Businesses can help citizens understand why monuments matter — This can be done by earmarking CSR funds for grants for researching, writing, and publishing high quality textbooks, and developing imaginative and effective ways of teaching history. Best practice — Sudha Murthy and N.R. Narayana Murthy is helping out the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (Pune) to continue their missions of writing history.
- Giving a new lease of life to humanities departments at some universities — Corporates can do this by instituting fellowships, endowing professorships, and supporting research training programmes.
- Meaningful conservation of heritage buildings — The CSR funds of industrial houses can be used to purchase new equipment that releases fewer noxious gases.
- Training individuals in much needed restoration skills — In the past, Tata Sons, ONGC, and other companies have regularly contributed funds to create jobs for youths.
- Supporting efforts to protect monuments from climate change — For example,
- Rising sea levels are leading to water percolation into forts along Maharashtra’s coast.
- Salination is eating into their foundations.
- Higher rainfall is leading Ladakh’s stucco houses to crumble.
- Greater fluctuations in temperature are peeling away Shekhawati’s murals.
- The private sector’s resources and expertise may also help the ASI and State Archaeology Directorates to secure monuments from dams, mining projects, defacement, and looting.
Currently, India’s progress in diverse fields is being projected at G-20 events across the nation. By embracing forward-thinking principles of historical preservation, businesses, government agencies, and civil society groups can showcase India’s genuine progress in this arena. Maybe their efforts will inspire more citizens to participate in the pressing task of safeguarding India’s pluralistic heritage.
Source – The Hindu
QUESTION – What is the ‘Adopt a Heritage Scheme’? How is it faring amidst the challenges? Why is it being criticised lately by the experts? Discuss in brief.