Monday 30 April 2018

Heritage for sale... Like Nigeria's National Arts Theatre, outrage in India over Taj Mahal, other sites

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India (built in 1653). Pic: Archival Source.
While the controversy over Nigerian Government's proposed plans to sell some of its national asset, including the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, is still fresh, India has a similar issue. The Indian government, according to sources tags its own policy 'Adopt a Heritage', a direction in which 95 historic sites, including the fifteenth century Taj Mahal could be taken over by private entities.
 Late last year, Nigerian Government announced plans to generate N311bn from privatisation of public properties and the sale of national assets to partly finance the 2018 budget.
 Already, reports have it that on Saturday, India's tourism ministry announced a five-year contract worth 250 million rupees ($3.7 million) with one Dalmia Bharat conglomerate for the iconic 17th-century Red Fort in Delhi and another fort in the southern Andhra Pradesh state.
For the Taj Mahal, two conglomerates, according to sources are competing to take it as well as the 12th-century UNESCO-listed Qutub Minar complex in Delhi.
 As Nigerians, are you angry that your govermoment plans to sell critical national Heritage assets? You have something in common with the Asian country. India's The Red Fort, said to have been built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1639 and also on the UNESCO list, is  where the country's prime minister makes an annual independence day speech.
 Out of India's nearly 3,700 national monuments, 31 are UNESCO world heritage sites.
 Expectedly, critics of the Indian government - including opposition parties and activists - have been making protest comments against the privatisation policy, AFP reports.
For example, Delhi-based historian and heritage activist Rana Safvi said the policy was unclear on how corporate management of the sites will be t transparent.
"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," she told AFP.

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