Subject: Will money solve Victoria Memorial’s problem?
We have come across the news of the proposal by the Victoria Memorial authorities to introduce entry fees even for those who would enter the grounds of the Memorial. I would like to express my views on the matter.
Those who recall how musical tamashas with commercial overtones have been allowed to invade the peace of the Victoria Memorial will not be surprised by the proposal to charge an entry fee for visitors entering the grounds from next year. Murmurs of protest have come from thousands in search of fresh air — a rare commodity in a city choked with poisonous smoke from state transport buses but hitherto available free to early morning walkers. The murmurs can be expected to die down. What is the price of ticket (which, we are assured, will not be a burden) to more painful inconveniences like the stalled metro and the vanishing onion? Kolkata has been known to be understanding even when the Memorial’s Board of Trustees, acting on the orders of the Union Human Resources Development Ministry, has set out to disprove the theory that the best things of life are free.
The real question is whether the money collected from visitors will make a difference in meeting the shortfall. The present revenue amounts to Rs.35 lakhs a year from sale of tickets to the museum in addition to a grant of nearly Rs.5 crores from the Department of Culture. If this has not ensured that the gardens are properly maintained, that the staff do the job for which they are paid and that the priceless paintings in the museum are preserved in the way they should, it is doubtful if the extra thousands coming from entry fees will help. The real lack is of will which enables hawkers to have a free run of the gardens and dubious activities to thrive under the nose of maintenance and security staff. The authorities need to demonstrate a sense of responsibility as opposed to the propensity to blame it all on lack of funds. Putting their won house in order is the better option; let it be exercised first.
Rana Ray Chowdhury