New Delhi: Even as a debate surrounding the Red Fort being "adopted" by a private party rages on, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said on Monday that its restoration-and-conservation work would be completed by December this year.
In a recently signed MoU the iconic Mughal-era monument was "adopted" by the cement conglomerate Dalmia Bharat Group as part of the Tourism Ministry's 'Adopt a Heritage' scheme.
"The restoration work is being done at an estimated cost of around Rs 45-50 crore. The work started in January this year and is expected to get over by December," said NK Pathak, ASI's superintending archaeologist (Delhi circle).
Restoration of monuments is underway at Mumtaz Mahal, Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience), the fort's main entrance -- Lahori Gate -- and its ramparts from where the prime minister gives his Independence Day speech.
Tourist amenities such as drinking water and toilets are also being upgraded. Ramps for the differently-abled and signage are being given a facelift. There will be more booking counters and turnstile gates, Mr Pathak said.
Conservation work at the UNESCO World Heritage site is done by the ASI with the help of experts. However, landscaping, lightening of the area, illumination of the facade, refurbishment of core electrical fittings and laying of underground cables are outsourced, Mr Pathak said.
An MoU has recently been signed with ticketing sites BookMyShow and Yatra.com to issue tickets online, Mr Pathak said, adding that there are proposals to give discounts for online booking to promote cashless transactions.
"The overall idea is to provide an authentic experience and amenities to the visitors without compromising on the originality (of the monument)," Janhwij Sharma, ASI joint director-general (conservation), told reporters.