India has immense unexplored potential in terms of heritage and tourism. Instead of banking on our massive cultural legacy and material heritage, we let our built heritage fall into ruins or be the ultimate parenting grounds for land sharks or the sites of religious divides. Heritage and tourism is a much-neglected dimension in most states of our country. In the few that it has been cashed, we can see the immense shoot to fame.
For instance, the very city of Kolkata abounds in built heritage as perhaps not many others. The extent to which that built heritage has been cashed onto for tourism or other such ends has been negligible and unfortunate. The city is full of nooks and crannies brimming with history and the stories of some of the most interesting lives lived and deeds done. A proper archaeological or anthropological survey of the city, studying its many faces, marketing and publicizing its touristy flair and its rich history could be a task the government can well undertake to create employment and develop the city in a different style as we see in several European cities in the West.
Instead, the only form of development we see is the demolition of heritage structures to satiate the greed of irresponsible private merchants to whom the aesthetic or historical value of one’s native land does not mean anything. Foreign cities have walking tours or city guides making trails around cities a daily tourist affair. In Indian cities, even a daytime stroll without the fixed purpose of rushing to or from work invites unwelcome and confused glances for people on the streets. The Indian environment is little but tourist-friendly. We fail to come up with innovative ways to convert our built heritage into commercials tourist spots with stories to tell. What is worse, is the government mode of publicizing? Privatization of built heritage to promote tourism is still an alien concept in several Indian cities where the idea of heritage is still very shoddy and murky.
It would be a brilliant generator of employment and revenue if our Indian cities could be popularized for their rich historical and heritage value. We need more responsible citizens and governments to undertake this mission before our cities lose their charm and identity to relentless and identity-shifting urbanization drives.