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To safeguard Goa’s heritage

Among the major issues plaguing Goa, the controversial ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme of the Central Government has been evoking strong reactions. If it materialises Goa’s five heritage monuments, including a beach could be handed over to a private agency Drishti Lifesaving Pvt Ltd. NT BUZZ spoke to two experts Prajal Sakhardande and Sanjeev Sardesai to understand this issue better

Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ

The controversial ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme has already created uproar in the country as the Red Fort in New Delhi will be taken over by the Dalmia Group. Goa too features in the scheme, with five heritage monuments – Old Goa Church Complex, Aguada Fort and Lighthouse, Morjim beach, Chapora Fort and Cabo De Rama Fort to be handed over to private agency Drishri Lifesaving Pvt Ltd.

A good idea but not defined

While heritage enthusiast Sanjeev Sardesai isn’t averse to the idea of Indians coming forward to take care of heritage sites, he says that important decisions like these can’t be taken in haste especially when policies aren’t formulated properly. “Before an idea is developed, views of all stakeholders should be taken into consideration. Some commercial company will take it up, not give money, and to save tax or under CSR they will show that they have done work. It will also mean that their branding will put up,” he says.

Echoing a similar sentiment is historian Prajal Sakhardande. “Heritage should always remain in the public domain. There should not be privatisation of natural heritage like our Morjim beach or historical heritage like Aguada, Chapora or Cabo De Rama Forts. A private firm can at best be appointed to maintain upkeep and cleanliness of the heritage monument or beach,” he says before adding that heritage action groups in the state will strongly oppose any move to privatise Goan heritage.

Alteration of character

Giving the examples of how heritage sites lose their character when taken over by private entities like Terekhol Fort, Prajal points out: “Look at what’s happening to Terekhol fort. Free access to the fort is restricted. Yellow tiles and bathroom tiles have been placed in its premises. The cannon landing space has been cut into steps.”

Sanjeev maintains there needs to be a clear cut policy for initiatives entailing the stages and most importantly the onus of control over the heritage site. He says that currently the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the State Archives Department under which these sites are managed are in the dark. He says that Terekhol Fort isn’t fully accessible to the public, but the Reis Magos Fort under the care of the Helen Hamlyn trust and managed by Department of Archives is fully accessible.

Goa to be treated differently

“Goa is different from all other states, whether it’s the communal harmony or its religious structures. Now under this scheme Old Goa too would be adopted. How can you give it to a private party? How is the person going to benefit? He will put his kiosks, signage or even host events and we won’t be able to stop him. So until these policies are clear. I am dead against a very good idea,” says Sanjeev vehemently.

Who will control it?

“Adopting a heritage monument should not tantamount to exercising control over the historical fort or precinct or site. Once our heritage is placed in the hands of the private corporate players they start feeling it is their private property and then the entire rigmarole of denying easy access to the fort or site or beach will follow,” explains Prajal. He adds that neither the ASI nor the State Archaeology Department should surrender control or subject themselves to private corporates.

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