Monuments are now up for adoption, but is that good?

Monuments are now up for adoption, but is that good?

The Centre’s new policy calls for caution, says Bengaluru heritage conservationist Aravind Chandramohan

Tipu’s armoury near Mysuru was recently relocated to make way for a railway line.

The Centre is giving away monuments for adoption, and the big landmark to have just gone into private hands is the Red Fort in Delhi.

Union Tourism Minister K J Alphons has announced more monuments will come under the government’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme.

Aravind Chandramohan, Bengaluru chapter co-ordinator, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), discusses the implications for Bengaluru.

Bengaluru has reportedly lost about 450 (more than half) of its heritage buildings since 1985 for want of a heritage policy.

These buildings we have identified are different from monuments. We had a discussion with the urban development department and subsequently the Revised Master Plan 2031 got a separate section on heritage. We appreciate the government tried to do something. They have used our listing along with their own and said that about 500 buildings need to be brought under heritage regulation but unfortunately no order has been passed.

What kind of role can the private sector play in the upkeep of monuments?

This is a tricky thing in India, as there is scope for misinterpretation and misuse. But barring that, I think, personally, it is a good move because from whatever we have seen, the Archaeological Survey of India does work but it is not good enough, especially for big monuments, where a lot of tourists come. We need decent amenities to be available whenever the monuments are open. Overall, there is no money with the government to give ASI and there is no will in the ASI, that’s all I can say. Hence, if some private person is willing to do this, it should be welcomed.

Can you elaborate on the government’s role in preserving heritage sites?

There are 100-plus government buildings in Bengaluru. Some are more than 100 years old, some between 50-70. They are iconic and should be preserved. The government is trying to demolish the nearly 100-year-old Janata Bazaar building on Kempegowda Road and wants to replace it with a Rs 120 crore mall. 

There is no reason the government should bring down its own buildings. There are many agencies like Intach which restore buildings. We can assist the government in preserving and conserving these sites.

Is there any mechanism to encourage preservation of private heritage buildings?

The master plan should also have addressed this. So you may call it TDR (Transfer of Developmental rights) or whatever name you may want to use, but the government should ensure that those who own private properties are given incentives to preserve and restore heritage buildings. I would say they should look at places where it has worked. For instance, Pondicherry has a lot of private houses getting restored because private heritage property is valued more than newer houses. We also hope to take this up with the government.