India/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.3 Status and partnerships of public cultural institutions

As mentioned earlier, from the late 1980s, the Government of India has tended not to begin new institutions, and has only supported independent institutions through arm’s length infrastructural and other support. The status of those institutions directly run or controlled by the Government does not change, and the infrastructural budgets for these goes up annually (as per Ministry of Culture annual reports). There is a second, grey area, of autonomous institutions being partnered by the Government for specific purposes. Some of these are part of the effort to support civil society participation under the Planning Commission’s NGO Partnership System, that has been implemented across various ministries and provides an interface between voluntary and non-governmental organisations with a view, hopefully, to foster transparency, efficiency and accountability.

Additionally, the government has been permitting the entry of corporate sponsors to fund important cultural festivals across states, in addition to tourism festivals like the Incredible India campaigns both nationally and internationally. In 2006, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, the government partnered with industry bodies in a public relations campaign called ‘India Everywhere’ which showcased India’s soft power. Some other examples of public-private partnerships for conservation of important heritage sites include the Taj Mahal and Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi.

Conservation through the National Culture Fund (NCF): NCF was established by the Ministry of Culture in 1996 to explore innovative patterns of cultural funding in India to assist existing governmental efforts and to facilitate public-private partnerships in the field of heritage conservation. Some of the benefits of partnering with the NCF are:

  • Donors to NCF can avail a 100% tax exemption
  • Efficient project management through a MoU signed between the Donor, NCF and Implementing Agency
  • Project can be managed independently by a Project Management Committee
  • Separate Joint Bank Accounts of the donor and NCF
  • A plaque at the site acknowledging the donors contributions

Some of the important projects the NCF has undertaken include:

  • The Shipping Corporation of India Ltd., in partnership the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and NCF created tourist amenities at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu.
  • The Apeejay Surrendra Group, ASI and NCF, partnered to conserve, create signage and illuminate the Jantar Mantar, Delhi.
  • World Monuments Fund, USA, and NCF were responsible for the Conservation of Synagogue Tower, Cochin, Kerala.
  • Damodar Devahuti Trust and NCF helped in the preservation of Intangible Heritage Music of the Mirs, Rajasthan.

Tata Group and the Taj Mahal: In June 2001, the Government of India announced that it had reached a deal with the Tata group, who own the India Hotel Compnay, better known as the Taj Hotel Group. Under the deal, Tata would take over the management of the actual Taj Mahal and develop a number of state-of-the-art tourist facilities in the area. Tata has agreed to pay for the maintenance with a commitment of somewhere between USD 383,000 and USD 750,000. It is estimated that the Taj Mahal currently takes in about USD 2 million at the gate each month. Tata also receives a tax exemption for its spending on preservation and scored a public relations coup for its brand: the Taj Mahal hotel chain. The first stage of Tata’s commitment has been focused on urgent restoration including conservation of the damaged stones and restructuring the existing museum. The Mehtab Garden, the moonlit pleasure park, will be resurrected as would fountains, which adorned the area in the 17th century. Restaurants and a shopping mall will form part of the USD 3.3 million second phase, which will include ATMs, modern restrooms and waiting areas.

Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC): The AKTC funded the restoration of Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, declared in 1993 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The AKTC gave USD 650,000 which was routed through the National Culture Fund, and the restoration was done with the support of ASI. The Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and the Oberoi Hotels also donated towards this project.

The Trust signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 2013 to restore the Qutb Shahi Tombs Complex and Deccan Park in Hyderabad at a cost of INR 100 crore (USD 20 million) over the next 10 years under the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme. This programme promotes the conservation and re-use of buildings and public spaces in historic cities. This complex comprises more than 70 structures that encompass 40 mausoleums, 23 mosques, five step-wells and water structures, a hamam (mortuary bath), pavilions and garden structures built in 16th and 17th centuries.

The JSW Foundation: The JSW Foundation was recently awarded the National Tourism Award of Excellence jointly with the Archaeological Survey of India for making the World Heritage Site of Qutab Minar in New Delhi a disabled-friendly historical monument.

Japanese investment in Buddhist heritage sites in India has been growing. In 2002, for example, the Indian and the Japanese governments laid out an investment plan worth INR 525 crore for preserving and developing the world famous heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra. The Japanese government sanctioned INR 430 crore for this project, while the Maharashtra government was expected to bring in the remaining amount.

Chapter published: 22-04-2014