Experts lament Delhi heritage never being a poll issue

By Kunal Dutt New Delhi, Feb 4: Can a monument in the national capital not be adopted for upkeep by a politician? Can an MLA or MP area fund not be spent on restoring a city landmark? Can development not be brought by balancing heritage with economic growth?

These are some of the questions that custodians of Indian culture, experts and enthusiasts from the field are raising this Delhi elections, while asking parties to go beyond the "vote-catching" 'bijli-pani-sadak' poll plank and also talk about heritage and its preservation during the electioneering process.

'Delhi heritage never being a poll issue

"Heritage doesn't really even find a space in a political manifesto of any party for obvious reasons, it doesn't get them votes. And, politicians, anyway know that it is neither of any interest to the society, so why make it a poll issue," Convener, INTACH Delhi Chapter A G K Menon said.

A team of UNESCO last year visited Delhi to examine its claim of becoming a world heritage city. Under Menon's guidance the INTACH, on behalf of the Delhi government, had prepared a dossier that was sent to the UNESCO in pursuance of the coveted tag. "It was difficult convincing the policy-makers to go for the tag, as there is a subliminal feeling that heritage is anti-development.

Politician see new constructions as growth and presence of old structures as necessarily an impediment to that growth. "And, hence heritage doesn't become a rallying point, like electricity, water and roads do, while wooing their voters," Menon told PTI.

ASI Delhi Circle's Superintending Archaeologist, Vasant Swarankar also rues the "traditional absence" of heritage- related action plans in party manifestos and poll processes, "elections after elections." "All MLAs and MPs get area funds for development.

While they do spend it, if they do, on basic development work in their constituencies, but one never hears them pledging fund for restoring an old library or a public hall or a colonial-era school or hospital in their region, do we" Swarankar asked. "I think it should be made mandatory for all MLAs and MPs to spend at least 5 per cent of their area funds on heritage- related projects," he said.


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