New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said India has one of the richest repositories of heritage anywhere in the world and it is critical that attempts are made to find practical and innovative ways to preserve and maintain this heritage.
"I recall that, in November 2004, speaking at this very spot on the occasion of the presentation of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, I had expressed the hope that a public private partnership could be created to maintain and restore historic monuments," said Singh in his speech at the ceremony to mark the completion of restoration work at Humayun`s Tomb.
"More recently, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Archaeological Survey of India, I had underlined the need for us in India to evolve a more holistic understanding of conservation that combines our preservation efforts with the social and economic needs of the communities that surround these historic monuments. To my mind, this is the only sustainable way for us to accomplish the herculean task of preserving our vast cultural heritage," he added.
Singh added, "Going by what I have seen and heard today, I think we have found a good model in the public-private partnership that has restored this great monument to its earlier glory."
"The key to the success of this conservation initiative here at Humayun`s Tomb has been partnership between like-minded public and private agencies, seized with concern for the protection of the national heritage, and able to work in a transparent and inclusive manner with local communities," PM said.
"I hope this successful partnership demonstrated here will encourage both government and civil society institutions to forge similar alliances at all our World Heritage Sites," he added.
Manmohan Singh said one obvious lesson to take away from this example is the efficacy of integrating conservation efforts with public policies and schemes for urban renewal, including those operating under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission of our Government.
"I am convinced that the effort to preserve our heritage can be productively dovetailed with local area development through infrastructure improvement, community participation, employment generation, boosting local crafts and arts, environmental conservation and landscaping," he added.
Further PM said the Humayun Tomb project has provided 200,000 man-days of employment for master craftsmen - demonstrating the potential of conservation works to fulfill a significant government objective.
"The increase in visitor numbers to this World Heritage Site will also translate into greater income through tourism," PM said.
"The resident communities of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti now benefit from improved urban infrastructure in health, education, water and sanitation as a by-product of this initiative," he added.
PM said all these takeaways mean that this effort could very well be a model for sustainable urban development of our historic city centers, using funding from the Urban Renewal Mission.
"It also achieves the important objective of engaging local communities in conservation and providing them opportunities for vocational training. It is only thus that conservation in India can become truly meaningful," he added.
Singh said the Aga Khan Trust has offered continued support for a ten year period to the Municipality, CPWD and the Archaeological Survey of India to ensure post-project financial sustainability of all project components, including the 90 acre city park being created adjacent to Humayun`s Tomb.
"This too will serve as a model for future urban improvements that must plan for future management from the onset of development works," he added.
PM said the responsibility to conserve and restore our nation`s heritage cannot simply be the sole preserve of government agencies, especially in a country where the physical manifestations of our past are so numerous, and often appear to be at risk of being overwhelmed by the pace of present development.
"The involvement of the local communities who form part of the ecosystem of this heritage is, therefore, essential in this effort," he added.
Dr. Singh congratulated the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Archaeological Survey of India and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust on the success of this endeavour, which has spared no resources and no effort to bring the country`s systems at par with the best in the world and provide a model for conservation to the world.
"I would also like to personally thank His Highness the Aga Khan for his commitment to revitalising historic centres, here in India and abroad. We are fortunate to count him as a great friend of Indian heritage and I have no doubt that we will be able to continue this rich partnership into the future," he said.