The decision of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to hike filming charges at heritage sites has got its cash registers ringing at Taj Mahal but has hit small-time filmmakers, as the demand for filming at the site has gone down.
In April 2016, ASI hiked filming charges at heritage sites from a measly Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000 — a ten-fold increase. The hike for world heritage sites, including Taj Mahal, was exactly double at Rs 1 lakh. However, with the twenty-fold increase in fees, demand for shooting at the Taj reduced to nearly half, even as revenue received at the 17th century monument increased by almost nine times.
From Rs 1.10 lakh in the financial year 2015-16, revenue at the Taj increased to Rs 9 lakh in 2016-17. However, while 22 films, including serials and ads, were shot at the Taj in 2015-16, the number came down to nine in 2016-17.
There are 3,700 protected monuments under the ASI, including world heritage sites. Apart from filming charges, ASI had also hiked the refundable security deposit for world heritage monuments from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000. There was no change in security deposits for other monuments.
“There was a need to revise the rates as they were abysmally low,” said Bhuvan Vikrama, superintending archaeologist of ASI, Agra circle. He said the hike had increased their revenue and also there was lower disturbance at the Taj now that there were lesser shoots there.
A senior official said that the old rates were structured when the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act was framed in 1958. “If filmmakers made crores of rupees out of a movie, shouldn’t the government also reap some of the benefits?” he said.
Interestingly, the money collected as fee for shoots cannot be spent on the upkeep of the monument as it goes into the Consolidated Fund of India and not into ASI’s coffers. “The policy needs to be changed so that the money can be retained by ASI or the management of the monument,” said the official.
Entry fee at Taj Mahal and other ASI-protected monuments across the country had been hiked from April 1, 2016. Domestic tourists now have to pay Rs 40 (including the toll tax collected by Agra Development Authority). Earlier, tourists had to pay Rs 10 for visits to 'A' category monuments, which include the Taj and Qutub Minar. Foreign tourists now have to pay Rs 1,000 including Rs 500 toll tax. Earlier the fee for them was Rs 250.