For the love of monuments

For the love of monuments

Next time you visit the iconic Qutub Minar in Delhi, do not be surprised to see new sign boards, functional servicing lights, a help desk with volunteers and toilets as clean as those at the IGI airport.

The India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) has embarked on a thoughtful project to clean up 100 selected monuments of India, and the campaign, titled ‘Clean India,’ has begun with Qutub Minar. It will now move to other heritage sites in Delhi and outside to give a ‘cleaner picture of India’ to tourists – domestic as well as international.

The idea was brought up by the Ministry of Tourism late last year following which a workshop for political leaders, bureaucrats, civic agencies, historians, civil society groups and school children was org­a­n­­ised. Many suggestions came up here and roles and responsibilities were assigned to different groups to clean up and maintain monuments.

ITDC was entrusted with the partnership of the project starting with Qutub Minar.
Niraj Bachkheti, Vice-president, Consultancy, ITDC informs, “The best thing about ‘Clean India Campaign’ is that it is not just a one-day government programme, but a people’s project. We have already involved the MCD, Delhi Jal Board (DJB), DDA and Traffic Department to address civic issues, the Shop Owners and Traders Association around the Qutub Complex to remove and avoid encroachments and an NGO - Prayas to spread awareness on preserving heritage sites.”

“Already, tourist facilities at the Qutub Complex like drinking water, toilet and parking lots have been refurbished, garbage bins and proper      signages installed, various           repair/replacement work  undertaken and a 24X7 mana­gement of the site organised. Also, the Qutub Minar complex has been converted into a disabled-friendly zone and tourist help desks with volunteers set up.” This model will now be replicated at all the other heritage sites selected under this campaign.

KK Muhammad, Regional director, North India, ASI, adds, “It works perfectly for us as ASI does not have as much fund or manpower to take care of concerns other than conservation of monuments. So if these agencies have come forward to manage tourist facilities as well as conduct awareness programmes, we are only too happy to hand over the monuments to them.”

Professor AGK Menon, Convenor, Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), however says that this is not enough. The authorities have to be more creative to sensitise the common man towards our monuments. “Shop owners, who are often seen as the biggest threat to monuments, can be turned into protectors of the same. They just have to be explained that their business depends on the monuments and not vice-versa. Similarly, people in the locality can also be sensitised,” he says.

“Besides, the best way of fulfilling this aim is to involve school children. If you ask a batch of school kids to adopt a monument and visit and clean it as often as possible, you will have a whole generation of heritage-lovers a few years from now. Involve theatre groups to do street-plays on protection of monuments, conduct demonstrations and bicycle tours to promote the cause.

Make merchandise with photographs of monuments on them available in the market and gradually people will start taking pride in our historical work. After all, it is all about people loving their monuments, not just NGOs or the government.”

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