Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, Hon’ble Railway Minister today said, conservation and preservation of heritage starts in the minds and hearts of people. Indian Railway is proud of its heritage and is committed to do everything possible for preserving its priceless heritage. Shri Prabhu was speaking at the signing of historic Fund-in-Trust agreement between Indian Railways and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at Darjeeling today. Shri Prabhu thanked the people of the Darjeeling Hills for being an integral part of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Eco-system and their efforts in preserving and conserving it. Honourable Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Shri S. S. Ahluwalia and Chief of Gorkhaland Territorial Council Shri Bimal Gurung were also present at the agreement-signing ceremony. Senior official of the Railway Ministry, Railway Board members, other N. F. Railway officials including the General Manager Shri Chahatey Ram were also present.
It may be mentioned that Darjeeling Himalayan Railway had been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 2nd December 1999 following appeal by Indian Railways. It was the second railway in Asia to be inscribed as World Heritage Site. Nilgiri Mountain Railway in 2005 and Kalka Shimla Railway in 2008 were also declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Together with Darjeeling Himalayan Railway these are called UNESCO’s 'Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site’. However, DHR is recognized as World Heritage not only for its physical heritage assets including the locomotives and rolling stocks, but also for its integration into the surrounding environment consisting of diverse socio-cultural milieu and the economy of the region. Conserving heritage assets and at the same time keeping it operational calls for added efforts. It is not easy to conserve and maintain a heritage like DHR having diverse stakeholders embedded in the environment without a proper conservation plan. UNSECO has agreed to develop such a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) incorporating all aspects of heritage conservation as well as maintain DHR as an Operational Railway. The signing of Fund-in-Trust (FIT) is the preliminary step for realisation of the plan. Under the FIT agreement, Indian Railway will pay 533,332 USD in Indian Rupees to UNESCO for assisting the Ministry of Railways, in facilitating the preparatory stage of the development of a CCMP and establishing the framework for an effective management system.