The Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, on Wednesday opposed the Central Government’s move to hand over the task of maintaining and developing tourism of three historical monuments – Rang Ghar, Kareng Ghar and Shiva Doug in Sivasagar district – and the Kaziranga National Park, to private firms.
Saikia termed this as a betrayal of the people of Assam and a deliberate insult to their pride and sentiments.
Also read: Centre to hand over Kaziranga, Shiva Doul, Kareng Ghar and others to private firm
The State Congress leader said that if the Centre was bankrupt or unwilling to look after a handful of monuments and ecological attractions in the state, then the responsibility of funding the upkeep and infrastructure development of these monuments and tourist sites should be handed over to the Public Sector Undertakings like the ONGC, OIL, Coal India Limited, etc., which were earning
substantial revenue by through Assam’s natural resources.
Saikia said that handing over historical monuments and sites to private firms was part of a ploy by the BJP to destroy the Assamese identity by targeting regional self-respect, regional consciousness and regional pride.
He added that the BJP envisaged one Bharat where the RSS’ narrow writ would run, everyone would be a Hindu and there would be no place for communities and tribes making up a state and taking pride in their own culture and monuments.
Pointing out that the BJP had promised to protect the “jati, mati, bheti” of Assam, Saikia urged the people to unanimously protest this treacherous move in order to force the Centre to roll back the project and refrain from handing over more monuments and tourist sites of the state to private concerns.
He said that it was especially difficult to accept that the Central and State governments combined did not have the resources to preserve and upgrade the Kaziranga National Park, which is not only a World Heritage Site but also continues to attract a sizeable number of revenue-generating foreign and domestic tourists because of its famed one-horned rhino.
The Opposition leader said in this context that the government led by Narendra Modi lacked national and historical perspective, which was evident from its decision to hand over the Red Fort to a private firm under the ‘Adopt Monument’ project.
Saikia stressed that the Red Fort played an important part in the freedom struggle because it was there that the British incarcerated and hung Indian patriots after the Sepoy Mutiny. At the present time, the monument symbolized a strong and independent India as the Indian Tricolour was hoisted atop it on Independence Day and successive Prime Ministers, including Modi, had addressed the nation from its ramparts on this occasion.
Saikia said that instead of abjectly abdicating its responsibility towards maintaining India’s historical monuments and sites of ecological importance, the Central Government should ask the private sector to spend their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for creating facilities in rural areas which would approximate those spent in urban areas.
Saikia further said that such anti-people policies were pursued when non-Congress parties came to power at the Centre, and specified that the concept of non-government sponsorship of important monuments was first mooted during the tenure of HD Deve Gowda as Prime Minister.
“At one point, the ONGC was supposed to fund the upkeep of important monuments in and around Sivasagar through the Archaeological Survey of India, but nothing concrete happened on the ground, ” he added.