Shah Jahan's iconic Red Fort in Delhi is now Dalmia Bharat group's Red Fort. The government, however, insisted that it was not for profits. In a press release, the Ministry of Tourism said the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Dalmia Bharat group was only "for the development, operations and maintenance of tourism amenities in and around Red Fort". West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called it a "sad and dark day" in the country's history.
The Red Fort adoption comes under the Ministry of Tourism's "Adopt a Heritage" scheme at started in the year 2017. It is where India's flag is hoisted on the Independence Day. Why should it be leased out? It is part of responsible tourism where the "Monument Mitra" essentially spends its CSR funds for upkeep and maintenance and gets limited visibility. The ministry also clarified that "The Adopt a Heritage" programme is a "non-revenue generating project". "You may have the MacDonalds Stadium but you certainly don't have the MacDonalds Lincoln Memorial". KJ Alphons, Union Minister for Tourism has asked the stakeholders to "protect, preserve and market" the historical monumental heritage sites of the nation.
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The Dalmia Bharat group, under the memorandum of understanding, would maintain the monument and build basic infrastructure around it and has committed a sum of ₹25 crore for the objective over a period spanning five years. As per the agreement, the corporate giant would build basic infrastructure around the monument and maintain it.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said that the Red Fort was a symbol of independent India and handing over the monument to a corporate entity was "nothing short of blasphemous". At Dalmia Bharat, we take pride in Indian culture and practise it at the workplace. Adopting a Heritage Project is a unique endeavour by the Ministry of Tourism which envisions developing monuments, heritage and tourist sites across India to enhance their tourism potential and cultural importance.
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"We have taken steps they could not take in 60 years". Dalmia group beat IndiGo and the GMR group to win the contract. "There is no profitmaking in this scheme, nor does it allow partners, public or private, to touch the monuments". Other Delhi monuments that have been adopted are Purana Qila (by NBCC), Jantar Mantar (SBI Foundation), Qutub Minar (Yatra, an online travel portal), Safdarjung Tomb (Travel Corporation of India) and Agrasen Ki Baoli (Special Holidays Travel Pvt Ltd and Rotary Club of Delhi). These include the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh, Kangra Fort in Himachal Pradesh, Buddhist Kaneri caves in Mumbai, among others.
The group will be able to use its branding on signages, souvenirs and during cultural events.
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Tasks that have to be completed within a year include putting up tactile maps, upgrading toilets, lighting up the Red Fort pathways and bollards, restoration work and landscaping, building a 1,000 square foot visitor facility centre, 3D projection mapping of the Red Fort's interior and exterior, battery-operated vehicles and charging stations for such vehicles and a thematic cafeteria.