The Centre on Sunday said that a private body’s decision to adopt the Red Fort in New Delhi under the government’s “Adopt a Heritage” scheme did not mean the monument had been “handed over” to the company. 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”.

“It is clarified that ‘Adopt a Heritage’ is essentially a non-revenue generating project,” the ministry said. It said the initiative was a means to develop “responsible tourism” in India.

“The project primarily focusses on providing basic amenities that includes cleanliness, public conveniences, drinking water, ease of access for differently abled and senior citizens, standardized signage, illumination and advanced amenities such as surveillance system, night viewing facilities, tourism facilitation centre and an enhanced tourism experience that will result in more tourist footfalls, both domestic and foreign,” the ministry added.

The Centre’s decision to lease out the fort had attracted criticism from several Opposition political parties. “Why can’t the government take care of our historic Lal Qila?” West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee tweeted. “Red Fort is a symbol of our nation. It is where India”s flag is hoisted on Independence Day. Why should it be leased out?”

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is preparing to mortgage India’s symbol of Independence, the Red Fort to corporates,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said according to PTI. “Is it not true that the private company will now issue tickets to see the Red Fort? Is it not true that if anyone wants to do any commercial activity there, the private party has to be paid?”

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”.