New Delhi: In a bid to attract more tourists to India’s heritage sites, the Planning Commission has suggested giving them a facelift with funds from the Central government’s flagship urban renewal scheme, and also involve the private sector in such efforts.
A high-level group of the Plan panel had suggested in its report released in March that money from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, or JNNURM, be used to beautify urban surroundings of heritage sites.
The mission is a Rs50,000 crore Central government-funded scheme that finances up to 90% of urban development work in 63 cities, provided they set in place a series of mandatory reforms.
“While several cities of tourist interest are covered under JNNURM, priority has been given to water supply, setting up of sewers, etc. To make these sites more competitive from the tourism point of view, funds should be earmarked for the beautification of their surroundings,” said Anwarul Hoda, Planning Commission member, and chairman of the high-level group.
However, an official of the urban development ministry said, “Beautification is not there in the guidelines per se.” “As of now, this cannot be done. It will require cabinet approval for the guidelines to be amended,” the official added, asking not to be named.
The scheme is administered by a cash-strapped urban development ministry that has been asking for more money for the programme. For fiscal year 2008-09, India’s national Budget allotted Rs6,800 crore to the mission, up from Rs5,400 crore in 2007-08.
Ministry officials say the fund is not enough to develop basic infrastructure in the cities, and beautification of heritage sites would mean diverting money meant to develop civic infrastructure.
The Plan panel’s group has also suggested that the Archaeological Survey of India, or ASI, could work out deals in which private players are allowed to commercially develop areas outside monuments, providing revenues to maintain the facilities.
Saying that an infusion of adequate funds could make a lot of difference, the report pointed to the Humayun’s Tomb enclosure in New Delhi that was refurbished with donations from the Aga Khan Foundation.
ASI maintains all monuments in India that are notified by the government as protected. It is an agency of the culture ministry and was given Rs311 crore in the 2008-09 Budget, up from Rs273 crore in 2007-08. This ministry, too, has been asking for more funds from the Union government.
To tackle the finance crunch, the report has suggested that ASI and state archaeological departments restrict themselves to restoration and conservation of world heritage sites and other important monuments.
For the others, public-private partnerships are a way out, it pointed out, adding that conservation and restoration of the monuments can be regulated by expert bodies such as the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.
Some analysts have said state governments need to put in more money for such beautification. “Heritage is usually the concern of state governments. Under JNNURM, any infrastructure development that would improve heritage are already being covered,” said O.P. Mathur, principal consultant with the National Institute for Public Finance and Policy.
“For instance, cities such as Nanded in Maharashtra and Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh—where the projects are linked to heritage monuments— have received funds,” he pointed out.