IHC slams move to 'adopt' Red Fort by pvt firm

IHC slams move to 'adopt' Red Fort by pvt firm

A row over the Centre outsourcing the operational maintenance and creation of basic tourist amenities at the iconic Red Fort to the Dalmia Bharat Group has escalated further.

Protesting the move, the Indian History Congress (IHC) on Wednesday demanded that the government involve experts to review its decision to outsource the job to Dalmia Bharat, which is a cement production company "with no known experience" of maintenance of monuments.

The government announced on April 24 awarding of the "letter of intent" to as many as nine private companies, including the Dalmia Bharat Group, for upkeep and maintenance of 22 monuments in different parts of the country under its "Adopt a Heritage" programme.

A controversy broke out over "adoption" of the Red Fort by the Dalmia Bharat Group within a week after the industrial conglomerate won a five-year contract worth Rs 25 crore for maintenance and creation of basic tourist facilities at the 17th-century monument. 

"The Indian History Congress is greatly perturbed at the announcement that Dalmia Bharat, a cement company with no known experience of maintenance of monuments is being made the custodian of the Red Fort of Delhi, a major national monument," the historians body, which is in existence since 1935, said in a statement.

The terms and conditions on which the Red Fort is to be handed over to Dalmia Bharat by the government "are disturbingly broad" as the company can "construct" as well as "landscape" and run an interpretation centre at the Red Fort.

There is "ample room for the fear" that in order to attract tourist traffic, it (Dalmia Bharat Group) may propagate "false or unproven interpretations of particular structures" in the Red Fort complex, IHC president and a professor of history at Aligarh Muslim University Shireen Moosvi said.

"Once such claims are set afloat, especially when they are of a sectarian character it is found extremely difficult to get rid of them. It is, therefore, necessary that the whole arrangement be impartially reviewed by the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology or any other recognised body of experts and, until then, the deal over the Red Fort be kept suspended," she added.

The government, however, remained unmoved.

A news agency quoted Tourism Minister K Alphons as saying that he was "not worried about the controversy" over the adoption of the Red Fort by the Dalmia Bharat Group.

"It is an executive decision taken by the government to sign the MoU. No changes to the present project will be done. We will only expand the project to include more such sites and monuments," Alphons told the news agency.