When the Dalmia Bharat group signed a deal to adopt Delhi’s iconic Red Fort, critics couldn’t stop carping. Many said it was a “total sellout”; the opposition went so far as it call it “crony capitalism”.

But Dalmia Bharat isn’t the first company to adopt a heritage building in India. It isn’t unusual for companies to be involved in the conservation or maintenance of historical monuments, both in India and globally. Staterun Indian Oil Corp, for example, funded the construction of tourist facilities at Konark Sun Temple in Odisha; and Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels has done the illumination and signage at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.

Globally, Italian luxury label Tod’s financed the restoration of Rome’s Colosseum while Fendi paid to restore the Trevi Fountain

Ajay Kumar, a director at the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, says the Red Fort project is a welcome step as many heritage sites are poorly maintained, with “betel stains and filth” .“If corporates have to spend 2% of their net profit on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), why not on heritage site maintenance. This scheme is a right step in that direction’’, he says.

Dalmia Bharat, a conglomerate with businesses in cement and power, plans to spend Rs 25 crore over five years on the 17th century fort as part of its CSR spending. It will set up and maintain amenities such as public toilets, seats, and lighting.

The government says it is a step to maintain the fort and promote tourism. And it might be true. Under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme, India plans to outsource the upkeep of close to 100 heritage sites. The adoptee will set up basic amenities but will not make a profit from the projects. It is part of the government’s efforts to channelise some of India’s over Rs 7,000 crore annual CSR spending into heritage tourism. A Dalmia Bharat official said the criticism was unwarranted as it is only setting up tourist amenities.

(The article was originally published in June 2018 issue of the magazine.)

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