Protests rife in Assam over move to handover heritage sites to NGOs

GUWAHATI: Even as protests are rife in Assam over the move to assign heritage sites in Assam, including the Kaziranga National Park, to the private sector for maintenance and upkeep, the Assam Tourism Development Corporation has allayed apprehensions aired by several organisations.

Protests rife in Assam over move to handover heritage sites to NGOs

File photo for representation only.

Bijay Sankar Bora

Tribune News Service

Guwahati, May 3

Even as protests are rife in Assam over the move to assign heritage sites in Assam, including the Kaziranga National Park, to the private sector for maintenance and upkeep, the Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) has allayed apprehensions aired by several organisations.

It said the government would still have control over these sites.

 “The fact is that the Centre had a few years back invited expressions of interest from PSU and private firms under the ‘Adopt A Heritage’ scheme for utilising their CSR funds on public amenities in the periphery areas of heritage sites/monuments in the country and thereafter maintaining them for five years,” ATDC chairman, Jayanta Malla Baruah said adding it must not be construed as handing over of these sites to non-government entities.

The project would begin with 93 ASI ticketed monuments and implemented in four phases. So far, 56 monuments have been listed in three phases.

The Kaziranga National Park and three other heritage sites in Assam, including the centuries-old amphitheatre, Rangghar in Sivasagar, have been listed under Phase III of the scheme, which aims to make these heritage sites tourist-friendly by enhancing their tourism potential and cultural importance.

Elaborating on Kaziranga National Park, the ATDC chairman said that the core area of the park is under the forest department and hence there cannot be any such activity there.

The PSU/private firm or an individual wishing to adopt a heritage site under the scheme would become “Monument Mitras” who would be responsible only for operating and maintaining basic and advanced amenities in a limited area beyond the core area.

The city-based JTI Group has been named as the Monument Mitra for the Kaziranga National Park and the Sivasagar monuments, according to a Central Government notification.

Baruah clarified that under no circumstances will the core area of a historic site, which is the domain of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), be allowed to be touched for any activity under the scheme.

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