The Goa government has reversed its stand on the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme. It has now accepted the scheme and Minister for Archives and Archaeology Vijai Sardesai even said it would be beneficial for the heritage sites as it would increase the number of tourists visiting them! However, there is no clear picture yet how the six heritage sites in Goa will be ‘maintained’ by private parties. Most of them are understood to have been given to Drishti. This is a private organization that is known for its business enterprises in lifeguard activities and ferry service as far as Goa is concerned. Drishti has no experience in heritage conservation or monument maintenance, which is a highly specialized and technical responsibility. Across the country, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which is registered as a society, has been providing expertise in the field of conservation, restoration and preservation of works of art for more than three decades. What has Drishti to show as experience and expertise in conservation, restoration and preservation of works of art? Do they have experts and skilled manpower in their employ to ‘maintain’ the heritage sites they have jumped forward to adopt?
Even though the state government has belatedly found merit in the central government’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme it should not accept it blindly. It must raise questions about the qualification and competence of the private organizations that are going to adopt the heritage sites. Every job is best done by specialists and trained manpower; so why should heritage maintenance be given to organizations that do not know the preliminaries of the monuments – its history, its ambience, architecture, structure and building materials – leave aside experience in managing and maintaining them? If the organization that adopts a heritage does not have experts, specialists and trained manpower, how would it maintain the quality of the heritage? An objectionable issue that has arisen with regard to the contract with Dalmia Bharat, which has adopted the Red Fort in Delhi, is that the company is free from any liability in case there is any damage to the site. What an absurd provision! If a company has adopted a heritage site to manage and maintain it, it should take all measures to prevent any damage to it and, if unable to prevent it, to repair it.
The Goa government has to also explain to the public the role of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the state archaeology department when private organizations adopt heritage sites. At least two of the six heritage sites given for adoption – the Chapora fort and the Cabo de Rama fort – were managed and maintained by the state archaeology department. The department has been spending some pretty good crores to maintain them. In the first place, why should the two forts be taken away from the department and given to private organizations when the former has been doing its job well? Now that the state government has accepted the adoption scheme, it has to explain who is going to benefit from the government expenditure on the repairs and approach roads and maintenance of the two heritage sites, Chapora and Cabo de Rama. The two heritage sites obviously need more funds for quality management and maintenance. The company that will adopt it will obviously not provide any funds for that. Will the government now stop releasing any more money for the two sites? Or will the state archaeology department be asked to continue with its work regardless of the adoption of the site by a private company? How will the duality work out at the site? It is clear to see there will be disputes between the state archaeology department and the private company on access, encroachments, disturbance and obstruction.
The Goa government also must explain to the public what ‘adoption’ of a heritage site is really going to mean. Adoption is a wrong word chosen by the central government in any case. Adoption implies taking of an orphaned child to take care of him or her as one’s own. Was any of the six heritage sites put up for adoption in a flotsam state? Calling the sites as orphans implies the ASI and the state archaeology department were dead or they had abandoned them. Was it really the case? Are the Se Cathedral and the Basilica of Bom Jesus in an orphaned state? Had the state archaeology department abandoned Chapora and Cabo de Rama? And if they were not left, lost and unclaimed, why put them up for adoption? Do parents that can take care of their children put them up for adoption? And see to whom are the ‘orphans’ going. To those who know little of parenting!