heritage preservation

Assam: Student bodies protest against Centre’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme

Tourism Minister Chandan Brahma said the government would request the Centre to exclude Kaziranga National Park from the programme.

Protests continued in Assam on Thursday against the Centre’s decision to hand over the maintenance of historical monuments in the state to private entities. The protests prompted Tourism Minister Chandan Brahma to say the government would request the Centre to exclude Kaziranga National Park from the “Adopt a Heritage” scheme, The Times of India reported.

The Jorhat unit of the All Tai Ahom Students’ Union organised a three-hour protest in front of the district deputy commissioner’s office, The Telegraph reported.

“The government says corporate social responsibility funds of the private/public sector firms will be used to develop tourist amenities,” the district unit president Rajib Gogoi said. “If the Archaeological Survey of India and the tourism department cannot maintain the state’s most important sites, what is the meaning of their existence?”

The Centre had launched the “Adopt a Heritage” programme in September to allow private and public sector corporations to adopt most of India’s top heritage sites. Kaziranga National Park is one of four sites in Assam that are part of the project. A travel company called JTI Group has applied to adopt the sites.

Opposition parties and student organisations have condemned the government’s move and said they will not allow anyone to take over the “state’s pride”. They had held demonstrations across the state and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Bharatiya Janata Party said the protests were because of a “communication gap” and “lack of understanding”, PTI reported. The Centre is handing over the monuments to private entities to maintain them and improve their safety, the state unit President Ranjeet Kumar Dass said.

“Everyone in India is praising this step,” he said. “Only here, we are seeing protests against the move. I hope that after few days, people will understand and will appreciate this in Assam as well.”

The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti has announced a protest at Kaziranga National Park on Friday.

Last week, the Dalmia Bharat Group announced that it had adopted the Red Fort for five years under the “Adopt a Heritage” scheme, leading to criticism of the programme from some quarters.

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