Rewind the clock: Historic monuments in Maharashtra to receive CSR boost under new bill
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Rewind the clock: Historic monuments in Maharashtra to receive CSR boost under new bill

There are many ways through which mankind has left a mark in the annals of history. Monuments are one of the most common ways rulers, kings and entire civilizations have made their presence known to us, who came later. These are a part of the cultural identity of any nation.

India is one such country that has a rich, cultural heritage. There are 32 cultural heritage sites in the country and these are just the major ones recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). There are countless minor places steeped in rich traditions that showcase the vibrant cultural hotpot that is India.

The Government of India has initiated many programmes for the maintenance of such sites given the rich, historical context of the sub-continent. One of the most innovative approach was launched in September 2017 on World Tourism Day.

The initiative, Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan, was unique concept envisioned by the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India. Under the scheme, private entities and firms as well as the public sector could choose to ‘adopt’ any monument. The development of these sites would be undertaken by the organization for a set number of years.

Five years on, the Maharashtra state government has decided to adopt a similar approach. It is currently working on a plan which would allow private donors and corporates to contribute to the conservation of heritage sites. As part of the scheme, utilization of CSR funds for the upkeep of such sites would be made eligible.

The state department of culture has proposed the creation of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) which would allow corporates to train their CSR activities towards heritage conservation. According to an official, the state government has designated protected status to a number of monuments in the state but often does not have the required funds to ensure their proper maintenance. “Hence, a decentralized approach is needed along with a convergence of departments like the public works department (PWD), tourism and archaeology to protect and conserve these sites and remove encroachments,” he added.

Currently, the Maharashtra government has allocated Rs. 48 crores towards the upkeep and conservation of 375 protected monuments in the state. This includes 59 Maratha-era forts and 147 temples. In the larger scope of things, Rs. 48 crores is hardly sufficient for such an effort. The proposed scheme will allow the entry of corporates and private donors and will include non-protected sites including smaller forts, temples, wells and water tanks that have historic significance but do not enjoy a protected status.

The new policy will be tabled before the state cabinet soon and it passage would be welcome news. This would permit CSR funds even from international sources to be used for the upkeep of historically significant sites.
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