There’s a deep-going ideological question — which some also find psychologically disturbing — that’s at the heart of the controversy over the Centre’s decision to hand over the Red Fort to a private company for its upkeep. The Taj Mahal, among other iconic monuments, is also to fall under the hammer.
The troubling question is: “Should monuments embodying the nation’s heritage be managed and run by a responsible government agency, or by an operator which works for profits and is responsible only to its shareholders?”
The government is yet to tell us why it jettisoned the Archaeological Survey of India from its calculations. It has not told us if the ASI’s management was below par all these years, and if so why. It hasn’t also told us on what basis some companies were asked to “adopt” our precious heritage sides, and whether they have the expertise and track record to do so.
If their concern is profits, sooner or later they will take decisions that exploit the monuments or heritage sites to maximise opportunities for profit and self-advertisement. That’s the name of the beast.
Any comparison with the Aga Khan Foundation to renovate Humayun’s Tomb is erroneous and misleading. If minister of state for tourism K.J. Alphons has done so, it’s either because he wishes to mislead or hasn’t understood the issues. The AKF isn’t a for-profit entity. It also has a long track record of restoration in Afghanistan and West Asia.
It’s best that the issue be discussed by a parliamentary committee in its entirety....