Friday, March 28, 2008

Entry fee for Jallianwala Bagh: A boon

Post-independence India adopted Soviet-style socialist model and in a bid to make everything accessible to everyone every public service was free and accessible. Entry fees were kept at negligible or nothing so that the poorest of the poor can access the services/ spots. Tourism is one sector that had been completely ignored both interms of its revenue generation capacity and its image building virtue.

Only during the past few years that the benefits of tourism is being realised. Tourism promotion is still in its nascent stage in India and tourism revenues are lower than small countries such as France, England etc. This is primarily because of lack of the instinct to ruthlessly pursue revenue generaiton out of tourism. Anyway the sense seems to be slowly dawning upon the Indian establishment.

I have visited the historic Jallianwala Bagh Memorial in Amritsar several times. The entry has always been free, which I feel is an insult to the martyrs who gave up their lives in the cause of freedom. I always wished that there were couple of multi-lingual guides who would take groups of tourists, school students and visitors around the vast grounds and tell the story of the Martyrdom of the thousands of unarmed Indians who were brutally massacred by the British. These monuments should be used to generate national pride among Indian visitors and awe among foreign tourists and if they are British make them feel ashamed of their nation and the cruel deeds of their founding fathers. Generations of Jews have not forgotten the holocust and German concentration camps and the World War II war crimes against their ancestors. But Indian's believe in forgetting, forgiving and loving even the most cruel and deceitful enemy, so this will never happen.

But at least one positive step has been taken in the right direction. The secretary of the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Trust, S Mukherji, recently announced that the trust has written to the Union Ministry of Culture that entry fee should be charged for tourists visiting the memorial.

"We are going to introduce a light and sound show which will recreate the firing on a gathering of defenceless men, women and children on April 13, 1919 by British soldiers under the command of Brigadier Reginald Dyer at the Jalianwala Bagh, near the Golden Temple, for those visiting the site of the massacre," he said. The work for the light and sound show has already started and it is being installed at a cost of around Rs.5 crore, added Mukherji.

"Even the whole memorial will get a facelift soon. We will have a big museum in the memorial which will house many new exhibits. Renovation work is also in full swing in the memorial," he said.

The annual budget of the Trust is only Rs 25 lakh but after the installation of the light and sound show the expenditure will rise manifold. "So to cope with the rise in expenditure we have asked the ministry to consider introducing an entry for those visiting the memorial".

I am sure that this entry fee will generate much revenue which can help maintenance of the place and also better management of visitors and museums.

The narrow passage which is the only entry and exit People jumped into the well to die honourably and not at the enemy's bullet
Bullet Marks which remind us of the inhuman treatment our people received by the British Blood stains of the Martyrs

News Source: Deccan Herald
Picture Source: Jallianwala Bagh Photo Gallery

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