Opposition Lashes Out at BJP as Dalmia Bharat Group Wins Historic Bid to 'Adopt' Red Fort

File photo of the Red Fort. (Reuters)

File photo of the Red Fort. (Reuters)

The Dalmia Bharat group bagged the contract for Rs 25 crore after beating IndiGo Airlines and the GMR group. The company will now be responsible for maintaining and revamping the 17th century monument built by fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

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New Delhi: In a unique initiative, the 77-year-old Dalmia Bharat group has adopted the Red Fort for a period of five years, making it the first corporate house to adopt a historical monument.

The Dalmia Bharat group bagged the contract for Rs 25 crore after beating IndiGo Airlines and the GMR group, a report in Business Standard said. The company will now be responsible for maintaining and revamping the 17th century monument built by fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

The ‘Adopt a Heritage’ (Apni Dharohar Apni Pehchan Project) scheme was launched by the president on September 17 last year, following which various companies volunteered to adopt the monument. The deal was signed with Dalmia Bharat group on April 24.

Opposition parties on Saturday took potshots at the BJP over the move. While Congress posted a poll on Twitter, asking which monuments the saffron party would “lease out to a private entity” next, it was joined by CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress in slamming the government's decision.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi is preparing to mortgage India's symbol of Independence, the Red Fort to corporates. Does Modiji or BJP even understand the importance of Lal Quila?" Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said on Saturday.

"Is it not true that the private company will now issue tickets to see the Red Fort? Is it not true that if anyone wants to do any commercial activity there, or any fucntion, the private party has to be paid... Can you barter out the symbol of freedom movement like the Red Fort to his corporate friends for maintenance," Surjewala asked.

The move was questioned by noted author and historian William Dalrymple.

Under the contract, the Dalmia Bharat group will provide drinking water kiosks, street furniture-like benches and shop signage within six months. It will then have to put up upgrade toilets, light up the Red Fort pathways and bollards, tactile maps, restore work and landscaping, build a 1,000-square-foot visitor facility centre, 3-D projection mapping of the Red Fort’s interior and exterior, battery-operated vehicles and charging stations for such vehicles and a thematic cafeteria within a year.

The conglomerate may also charge people visiting the Red Fort after getting clearances from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism. Any revenue generated through the activities planned will have to be used for the Fort's development and maintenance.

Sundeep Kumar, Executive Director, Dalmia Bharat said in a press release, “We are grateful to the Ministry of Tourism for trusting us and giving us this opportunity. With our dedicated efforts we will endeavour to make Red Fort a world-class monument in terms of amenities and experience. Such initiatives will enhance the tourist experience, resulting in more footfall from both domestic and foreign tourists. With our efforts we will make Indian heritage sites a symbol of pride for all of us.”

Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee 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."

Deploring the move, the CPI(M) said that the government has virtually handed over the Red Fort to the Dalmia group.

"The Dalmia group in its own press release has said that they will have to own it for five years initially' and the agreement gives them the freedom to make the Dalmia brand prominently visible.

"It has the right to use its brand name on all kinds of publicity material to be displayed during events organised at the site and also on all signages. In fact, it will be allowed to proclaim in a prominently displayed sign that the Red Fort has been adopted by Dalmia Bharat Limited", the Left party said.

Dalmia Bharat will also introduce other key amenities for the visitors like App based Multi lingual Audio-Guide, Digital Interactive Kiosk, Digital (LED) screening, free Wi-Fi and cafeteria along with souvenir shop which will help in promoting local art and craftsmanship. Keeping in mind easy accessibility to the differently-abled visitors, there will be construction of ramps & differently-abled friendly toilets.

The heritage monuments taken up for 'adoption' by private groups include Delhi's Qutub Minar, Jantar Mantar, Purana Qila, Safdarjung's Tomb and Agrasen ki Baoli, Odisha's Sun Temple, Ratnagiri monuments and the Rajarani temple, the ruins of Hampi in Karnataka, the Leh Palace and Stok Kangri in Jammu & Kashmir, Anjanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra, Mattancherry Place in Kochi, Gangotri Temple and the Gomukh trail in Uttarakhand. The government had last year given letter of intent to seven private companies to adopt the sites.

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