Mumbai: India has always been renowned for its rich heritage, reflected in the form of numerous monuments, forts, palaces, temples and archaeological sites. Heritage tourism in India is a great attraction for international and domestic tourists.
Therefore, to sustain the benefits of heritage, it is essential to have a robust mechanism not only for conservation and protection but also for providing basic amenities for making them tourist-friendly, enhancing overall tourist experience and increasing cultural importance of the heritage sites.
As on date, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protects 3686 ancient monuments, including 36 UNESCO® World Heritage Sites. In addition, the states of the country have a large number of heritage sites under their State Archaeology Department.
These heritage sites are facing common challenges, primarily, related to the operations and maintenance of the various infrastructural as well as service assets. There is therefore an imminent need to develop a mechanism for the provision of basic amenities on an immediate basis and advanced amenities on a long-term basis.
‘Adopt a Heritage’ Scheme, launched by Tourism Ministry of India, in collaboration with Ministry of Culture, ASI and State/UT Governments, is one such innovative mechanism to involve companies in the public and private sector and corporate citizens/individuals to take up the responsibility of making heritage and tourism more sustainable through development, operation and maintenance of world-class tourist infrastructure and amenities at ASI/State heritage sites and other important tourist sites in India with the objectives of:
- Developing basic tourism infrastructure
- Promoting cultural and heritage value of the country to generate livelihoods in the select regions
- Enhancing the tourist attractiveness in a sustainable manner by developing world-class infrastructure at the heritage monument sites
- Creating employment through active involvement of local communities
- Harnessing tourism potential for its effects in employment generation and economic development
- Developing sustainable tourism infrastructure and ensuring proper operations and maintenance therein
‘Adopt a Heritage’ Scheme has some notable and unique features which include:
- Developing synergy among public and private sector partners to promote ‘Responsible Tourism’
- Channelising CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funds into developmental activities related to heritage tourism
- Project partners to be called ‘friends of the monument’ (Monuments Mitras)
- Projects to be based on assessment of need gap and existing service level at the heritage sites
- Inbuilt mechanism to allow Monument Mitras to take up a combination of monuments instead of picking up only the site with highest footfall and tourism value (green monument)
- Well-defined management structures comprising Oversight and Vision Committee, Implementation Committee and Monument Committee
- Basic as well as advance amenities that can be taken up under the scheme have been clearly specified in the project guidelines
- Monitoring of the projects to be carried out by designated officers and project management consultants on regular basis
- Mechanism of evaluation of expected outcomes, well in place
The scheme is a non-revenue generating project where Monument Mitras spend their CSR funds for upkeep of the adopted heritage site and in return get limited visibility. The Mitras are to be selected on the unique concept of vision bid and not financial bid. The scheme is definitely not a reflection of the government’s inability to provide funds for maintenance and upgradation of its heritage monuments. It is based on the universally acknowledged Public Private Participation (PPP) model.
Public Private Partnership has been universally acknowledged to optimise the comparative advantage of each partner and pool resources, while maintaining a balance between public and private interest and ensuring transparency. It is also an innovative funding mechanism with the benefit of increased recognition, participation and contribution of the private sector in areas of public and national interest.
The use of PPPs for infrastructure development and other services has been established for many years and they have proven successful in a number of countries as far as conservation is concerned. According to UNESCO®, countries with immensely rich cultural heritage stand to benefit most from such alliances. The current economic climate and patterns of government investment in heritage conservation in many parts of the world demonstrate a downward trend in direct funding by the government.
This means that creative ways to leverage private and third-sector involvement is crucial to ensure the status quo with regards to maintenance. It is recognised that sustainable conservation outcomes require engagement of all sectors, therefore, partnerships that facilitate participation in all aspects of the maintenance process are of increasing importance. PPPs can provide a way to address these issues and formalise shared responsibility for heritage resources across all sectors that engage, enjoy and use these resources and achieve both financial and cultural goals.
‘Adopt a Heritage’ Scheme aims to involve public and private sector companies and corporate citizens to take up the onus of making heritage tourism more sustainable
Some misgivings have been expressed and reported in a section of media about the intention and approach of ‘Adopt a Heritage’ Scheme. It is therefore important to clarify that the suspicion about “selling our heritage” is completely misplaced. The scheme guidelines clearly mention that access to Monument Mitras are limited only to non-core areas and there is no handing over of monuments to the Monument Mitras, nor is there any provision for handing over the management of the heritage sites.
There is also no provision for collection of any revenue by the Monument Mitras from the tourists and visitors to the heritage site adopted by them. Mitras are expected to be driven to adopt a heritage site under this scheme, primarily because of associated pride in adoption of key heritage monument of the country. Although, they will be provided with opportunities for their brand promotion in lieu of their CSR initiatives under the project, they will be subject to approval by the Oversight and Vision Committee. The promotional material installation shall be strictly within the statutory guidelines under Ancient Monument and Archaeological Site and Remains Act 2010 and other relevant Acts and Regulations.
It is noteworthy that ‘Adopt a Heritage’ Scheme is well within the policy framework of the National Tourism Policy 2002 which states as under: “The private sector has to act as a main spring of the activities and impart dynamics, and speed to the process of development as well as conservation…Improvements and environmental upgradation of the protected monuments and the areas around there should be considered as a linchpin of the tourism industry”.
The Draft National Tourism Policy 2015 has further outlined this under the proactive role of corporate sector in partnering with the Government in protection and upgradation of heritage monuments: “Encourage business houses to adopt important monuments… Cleanliness and beautification of surroundings to be part of the CSR of the Tourism and Hospitality Industry.”
‘Adopt a Heritage’ Scheme is yet another example of a growing public-private partnership in India and directly aims to achieve the objectives of sustainable and responsible tourism. It is an experimental scheme with good intentions and well-defined goals and therefore deserves support. The responsibility of preserving and sustaining our heritage lies not only with the government, but with each one of us.
The author is former Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org