Goa Govt All Set To “Sell” Heritage Churches, Temples and Forts to the Corporate Sector

Basilica-de-Bom-Jesus

Panaji, May 7:  After an initial protest and barrage of words, the Goa government on Monday decided not to oppose listing of the state’s heritage monuments under a central government project designed to rope in private and public firms for maintaining such structures, reports Outlook.

The project, ‘adopt a heritage’, has been started by the Union Tourism Ministry with an aim to entrust heritage sites and monuments and other tourist places to private and public sector companies and also individuals for the development of tourist amenities.

It is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and State/UTs governments.

A high-level meeting, chaired by Goa Archives and Archaeology Minister Vijai Sardesai, resolved not to oppose the adoption of heritage monuments under the project.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of Archbishop of Goa, Archdiocese of Goa and Daman, the parish priest of Se Cathedral and the rector of Basilica of Bom Jesus, both located at Old Goa, along with government officials, including Chief Secretary Dharmendra Sharma.

After the meeting, Sardesai said the stakeholders discussed in detail “pros and cons” of the project and arrived at a conclusion that the scheme is “not about taking over (of) the monuments” (by private entities).

“It is about preserving monuments as per international standards. That is why we felt we should not say `no’ to the project.

“By and large we reached the conclusion that the adopt a heritage scheme is in the interest of Goa if implemented properly,” the minister said.

The government’s stand is in stark contrast to the one taken last week when Sardesai had claimed local authorities were not taken into confidence while listing monuments under the project.

Sardesai had said six monuments in Goa, including the Basilica of Bom Jesus at Old Goa, were listed by the Union tourism ministry for adoption.

The minister today said “not just the state government but Church authorities, too, do not have any objection to the implementation of the project, the Outlook report stated.

“We realised the project can be actually used to harness more footfalls and help build world-class infrastructure at the monuments.”

Sardesai said the question of any damage to monuments does not arise as the project does not permit any tinkering with the core areas of these sites.

The minister said the project can be implemented at churches or temples of monumental value only after taking a `no objection certificate’ from their management.

“So the interest of everybody, including the state, religious monuments, institutions that runs these monuments, the Archaeological Survey of India and the private party is protected,” Sardesai said.

Recently, a controversy erupted when the Central government decided to give the Red Fort to a corporate, Dalmia Bharat, for upkeep.

However, the Goa Citizens Action Forum (GCAF) has termed the move an all-out sellout. Eventually, the corporates who will ‘sponsor’ the maintenance of these heritage sites will take over the management from the original team and dictate terms as to how to run the place, it claimed.

The GCAF is strongly opposed to handing over any heritage churches in Goa to third-party corporates. These are not just heritage sites, they are religious sites with a deep spiritual connect for the people of Goa, which goes down to generations. We do not want any corporate to run these heritage churches, said a spokesperson for the GCAF.

“Even if the corporates only sponsor or pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the heritage structures, they would flood the venue with their ugly sign boards and hoardings. Their marketing and management teams would set up camp at the venues during festival days and shamelessly promote and plug their brands and products at the venue. They will have their ‘site offices’ at the heritage venue. Do the people of Goa want their serene churches and temples to be dotted with corporate logos of unscrupulous businessmen,” the GCAF spokesperson asked?

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