New heritage scheme to privatise the Taj Mahal

The Indian government have introduced a new ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme that allows companies to lease out historic monuments around the country. India currently has 3,700 historic monuments, that also include 31 Unesco world heritage sites. If large private corporations have the option to rent out these pieces of history, will this change the monuments’ elite status?

Last week India’s tourism ministry announced a new five-year contract, available for large companies to own heritage monuments such as the Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar complex, and the Red Fort. The five-year contract for the 17th century Red Fort in Delhi was signed by Dalmia Bharat and was worth 250 million rupees (£2,721,720).

The government has expressed that contracts within their ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme will have strict supervision, and only cover the development, operations and maintenance of the monuments. The new contract owners, such as Dalmia Bharat, will be allowed to advertise the monuments to sell tickets and earn money from the sales. All money made must go towards improvements of the monument, and not profit for the company.

Not everyone is thrilled with India’s famous monuments being available to rent and instead call for more funds for the government to run the monument facilities. Rana Safvi, a Delhi-based historian and heritage activist stated, “there is no clarity on how much money corporates will spend on the facilities but they are certainly going to generate more funds from tickets than the contract amount. [...] We are not sure which historical sources [the companies] will use in audio-video guides. That remains an area of concern."