LONDON: Britain, known for its global expertise in heritage management is now planning to offer West Bengal help in getting the world heritage tag for Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketan.
A scoping study conducted by the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) - the document of which is available with TOI, calls the project's priority level "immediate".
The report which will help British companies "win large-scale overseas contracts" was prepared on the eve of chief minister Mamata Banerjee's maiden trip to United Kingdom from July 26-30.
The UK India Business Council (UKIBC) and the British companies who will hjold a series of round tables with Banerjee on how they can work in Bengal is expected to bring up the projects and ideas suggested by this scoping study.
UKTI says, "Given the cultural heritage and character of Shantiniketan, in order to build on its strengths, focussed and controlled growth in the three characteristic areas could be effected - education, culture and tourism. Besides physical intervention, softer initiatives such as setting up a public art initiative run by local artists and potential exchange programmes with the Visva Bharati University could greatly help showcase Shantiniketan's strength and promote a cultural hub unique to the region and the first of its kind in India."
"Since Shantiniketan has had a history of being a local tourist destination, there is potential for the development of a hospitality industry that capitalises on the natural resources of the area. The town could serve as a retreat from the city. A 120 hectare site owned by the government opens up the possibility of a pilot project that could mark the beginning of a comprehensive tourism strategy for Shantiniketan. Culture led tourism and potential tie ups of educational institutions with Visva Bharati could greatly enhance the educational character of the area. Owing to the availability of government-owned land, it is expected that Shantiniketan has development potential in the near future," the scoping study says.
Sanjay Wadvani, British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata says about the scoping report "In 1915 the celebrated British Town Planner Patrick Geddes came to India bringing his Cities and Town Planning Exhibition. He worked extensively across India, and in particular in West Bengal where he developed a plan for Burrah Bazaar in Kolkata. This involved a combination of restoration and new development with a series of new open spaces largely to improve conditions for the common people. He also worked closely with Rabindranath Tagore, collaborating on a new university in Shatiniketan. His activities on urban planning work across India are still well-known to this day as they represent a fusion of practical expertise and sensitive understanding of the local environment. They also provide a continuing basis for partnership at the urban scale in West Bengal."