The Indian government’s decision to give a 17th-century monument up for “adoption” to a private conglomerate has provoked both protest and support across social media.
The Dalmia Bharat group has signed a five-year contract worth about $3.7m (£2.7m) to maintain the Red Fort in Delhi.
This is the first contract involving a private company as part of the government’s Adopt a Heritage scheme launched in September last year.
According to the contract, the group will work on maintenance, renovation and provide better amenities in the premises of the monument. It will also cover marketing for the site and it will be allowed to use its brand name inside the fort, prompting accusations that the country has “sold” its heritage.
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India’s tourism ministry later clarified that the agreement signed with Dalmia Bharat was “only for development, operations and maintenance of tourism amenities” in and around the monument and envisaged limited access to non-core areas.
The news nonetheless has divided opinion on social media.
‘India on sale’
“Amid all the chest-beating about patriotism, Modi’s govt has auctioned the iconic Red Fort to the highest bidder. What a shame,” posted Vidya Krishnan, the health and science editor of The Hindu newspaper.
Another post on Facebook argued that the Red Fort was “the symbol of martyrdom of soldiers who fought in 1857 under the leadership of Bahadur Shah Zafar. So giving the Red Fort to private company even for its maintenance isn’t justice with their blood.”
“As a student of architecture and an admirer of India’s rich heritage, I would have never thought that Modi would sell (the) Red Fort to crony friends and would just keep the replica to himself! Sad day for India,” tweeted Rachit Seth who works for India’s main opposition Congress party.
The Aam Aadmi party has used the hashtag #Indiaonsale to criticise the announcement.
‘Attempt to manufacture outrage’
Many stepped in on social media to defend the contract or to ask people to give the partnership a chance.
“Hue and cry over handing over Red Fort maintenance to Dalmia is yet another attempt to manufacture outrage. The only way heritage can be managed in this country, with thousands of monuments, is by way of such partnerships… This is the norm in most countries which value heritage,” wrote a supporter of the decision on Facebook.
One Twitter user asked how people could not understand the difference between selling and adopting a monument for maintenance.
“While this does come as a surprise, the ultimate goal is to renovate the monument and we’re hoping that the government and the company achieve that together,” news website Scoop Whoop posted on Facebook.
“Public-private partnership approach is a bold step taken towards restoration of our glorious heritage sites. Must be approached responsibly and delicately,” tweeted spiritual guru Sadhguru.
“If you hire someone to clean your house, (it) doesn’t mean you are selling your house to them. No, Red Fort is not being sold. It’s an innovative way to save the government some money and preserve a monument,” tweeted author and journalist Chetan Bhagat.