“Adopt a Heritage” Project and Monument Mitras

The Scrutiny Companies that enter into agreements with ASI to adopt sites will be referred to as Monument Mitras. The tenfold increase in the number of sites brought under the controversial 2017 ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme raises concerns. Unless and until the’revamped’ scheme is suspended, the nation’s priceless pluralistic heritage will be lost.

Everything you need to know about the Ministry of Tourism’s Adopt a Heritage project

  • The Indian government launched the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme in September 2017 under the auspices of the Ministries of Tourism, Culture, and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
  • Objective: The scheme’s main goal is to provide world-class tourist facilities at various natural/cultural heritage sites, monuments, and other tourist sites across the country in order to make them more tourist-friendly and to increase their tourist potential and cultural importance.
  • The project’s primary focus is on providing basic amenities such as cleanliness, public convenience, drinking water, ease of access for tourists, signage, and so on, as well as advanced amenities such as TFC, souvenir shop, cafeteria, and so on.
  • Monument Mitra: Tourist amenities will be developed at heritage sites by the government, private sector companies, and individuals. They would rename themselves ‘Monument Mitra’ and adopt the sites as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme.

What are the issues?

  • The current plan ignores the ASI mandate: The current plan also ignores the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) mandate and abandons The Sarnath Initiative, which was developed by the ASI, the Getty Trust in the United States, the British Museum, and the National Culture Fund to safeguard excavated objects and present them to visitors in an engaging manner.
  • Undermine local communities and their relationships with historical sites: Guided tours led by employees of large corporations that have been granted permission to adopt a monument may jeopardise the livelihoods of those who have lived near the site and made a living by entertaining visitors with stories from its colourful past.
  • Excessive wear and tear: The possibility of large corporations underwriting a monument’s illumination is also concerning. Night tourism will also drain power from rural homes and hospitals.
  • It may change the historical character of monuments that are not protected by the ASI: Some monuments chosen for the scheme are not protected by the ASI and are located in states without Archaeology Directorates. Businesses that sign agreements with the Union Ministry of Culture to adopt these monuments, one fears, will be able to change their historical character without much opposition.

What could Corporate India do instead to protect the nation’s built heritage?

  • Businesses can assist citizens in understanding why monuments are important: This can be accomplished by allocating CSR funds to grants for researching, writing, and publishing high-quality textbooks, as well as developing innovative and effective methods of teaching history.
  • For example, corporations could follow in the footsteps of Sudha Murthy and N.R. Narayana Murthy by donating to organisations like the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune to help them continue their missions of writing history by rationally coordinating the textual record and archaeological evidence.
  • Skilled conservation: By looking within, industrial houses can help to support the meaningful conservation of heritage buildings. Their CSR funds can be used to buy new equipment that emits fewer noxious gases that darken and corrode marble buildings and discharges fewer effluents into rivers, making these bodies of water less likely to serve as breeding grounds for microbes that cling to the walls of ancient buildings built on riverbanks and cause their decay.
  • For example, in the past, Tata Sons, ONGC, and other companies have regularly donated funds to organisations that train people in critical restoration skills and create jobs for them.
  • Collaborative efforts: The resources and expertise of the private sector may also assist the ASI and State Archaeology Directorates in protecting monuments from dams, mining projects, defacement, and looting.

Climate change: Significant threat to India’s historical monuments

  • Sanchi Stupa: The 3rd-century BC Buddhist monument in Madhya Pradesh is under threat from rising humidity and rainfall. The stone is deteriorating due to the changes in weather patterns, leading to the loss of carvings and sculptures.
  • The 7th-century rock-cut monuments of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu are under threat from sea-level rise and erosion. The monuments, which are near the water’s edge, are being battered by the waves, resulting in the loss of sculptures and carvings.
  • The Sun Temple in Konark, built in the 13th century of Khondalite stone, is under threat from rising temperatures and humidity. The stone is expanding and contracting due to the changes in temperature, leading to cracks and erosion.
  • Heavy rainfall and flooding are threatening the 14th-century Hampi monuments in Karnataka. The granite monuments are being eroded by rainwater, resulting in the loss of carvings and sculptures.
  • Murals in Rajasthan’s Shekhawati: Shekhawati is famous for its intricately painted havelis with frescoes and murals. Temperature fluctuations are causing Shekhawati’s murals to peel away.
  • Ladakh’s stucco houses are crumbling as a result of increased rainfall. Climate change is threatening the traditional way of building houses in Ladakh, reducing the durability of the structures.
  • The Taj Mahal, a 17th-century monument, is under threat from rising pollution and changing weather patterns. Because of air pollution, the white marble is turning yellow.
  • Maharashtra’s sea forts: Rising sea levels are causing water to percolate into forts along the state’s coast. Their foundations are eroding due to salination.

@the end

India’s progress in various fields is currently being projected at G-20 events across the country. Businesses, government agencies, and civil society organisations can demonstrate India’s genuine progress in this arena by embracing forward-thinking principles of historical preservation. Perhaps their efforts will inspire more citizens to join the critical task of preserving India’s pluralistic heritage.

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