Assam govt to oppose Centre’s decision to hand over Kaziranga to private entities; Protests due to ‘communication gap’ and ‘lack of understanding’: BJP

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HT Bureau

Guwahati, May 3: Assam government will opposed the decision of the Union government to involve the private sector in the maintenance of public amenities at the Kaziranga National Park, Assam tourism minister Chandan Brahma said in Guwahati on Thursday.

Massive protests were witnessed across the state for the second day on Thursday following reports that a local travel company has submitted its ‘Expression of Interest’ for adopting Kaziranga National Park, Kareng Ghar, the Ahom Kings’ palace, the amphitheatre Rang Ghar and Shiva Doul (temple) under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme.

“We will oppose this decision. We will write to the Centre soon,” Brahma told reporters here.

However, the minister refused to pass any comment on the proposal for adopting Kaziranga National Park, Kareng Ghar, the Ahom Kings’ palace, the amphitheatre Rang Ghar and Shiva Doul (temple).

The minister also informed that he has called for a meeting with all protesting organisations on Saturday at 5 pm to discuss about the future course of action.

On the other hand, Pradesh BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass said the people are protesting due to “communication gap” and “lack of understanding.”

Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, Dass said the Centre has decided to hand over the historically important places to private parties for maintaining the outside areas of the monument and improving their safety. “I think there is a communication gap. Everyone in India is appreciating this step. Only here, we are seeing protests against the move,” Dass said.

“It is basically for beautification of the outside of the monuments. There is a lack of understanding on the entire thing.  I hope that after few days, people will understand and will appreciate this in Assam as well,” he said.

The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) held a protest demonstration in Nagaon on Wednesday. Its supporters also burnt effigies of the Assam government and shouted slogans against the move.

The All Tai Ahom Students Union (ATASU) threatened to launch a state-wide movement against the decision, whereas the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti also warned against the “privatisation of the historical sites”.

Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, also condemned the move, terming the step part of a ploy by the BJP to destroy the Assamese identity by targeting national self-respect, national consciousness and national pride.

Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) chairman Jayanta Malla Baruah told a hurriedly convened press conference in Guwahati that there is no move to hand over historical monuments in the state to private parties. “There is no plan to hand over historical monuments to private parties. Private parties will engaged only to maintain basic amenities and other facilities like lighting etc in peripheral areas of monuments and they cannot touch their core areas,” Baruah said.

“The historical monuments are the property of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). If there is any maintenance issue, the ASI will take a decision,” he said and added that the private sector will spend their Corporate Social Responsibility money for maintenance work.

The official maintained that the scheme was aimed at involving public and private companies and corporate individuals to take up responsibility to make heritage tourism more sustainable through development, operation and maintenance of world-class infrastructure and amenities at ASI and state-owned heritage and other tourist sites in India.

“They will become ‘Monument Mitras’ through an innovative concept of “Vision Bidding”, wherein the agency with best vision for heritage site will be given an opportunity to associate it with their CSR activities.”

“They will also get limited visibility on the premises and ‘Incredible India’ website. The aim is to enhance tourists’ experience and promotion of incredible heritage sites on the tourism map,” he said.

Basic amenities include cleanliness, public conveniences, drinking water, ease of access for differently abled and senior citizens, standardised signage, illumination as well as advanced amenities like surveillance system, night-viewing facilities, tourism facilitation centre etc.

Amit Shah to meet NEDA members

BJP national president Amit Shah will hold a meeting with the constituents of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in Guwahati on May 20 to discuss preparations of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections next year.

Shah will also hold a meeting with chief ministers of the states ruled by non-Congress parties in the Northeast during his visit, he told a press conference.

During his visit here last month, Shah said the BJP led coalition should win at least 21 seats from the North East out of the total 25 seats in the 2019 general election.


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