The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh gave away the 9th Agha Khan Award for Architecture, here today. Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister hoped that more public private partnership can be evolved to maintain and restore the monuments which often lie in neglected conditions in our cities and towns. The Prime Minister emphasized that every Indian must take pride in his or her legacy and should contribute to ensure that there remains a legacy for which our descendents can be proud.
Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:
"It is a privilege for me to be associated with the presentation of the ninth edition of the world’s largest awards for architectural excellence. It is also a pleasure to participate in an event celebrating the world’s diversity, through a lasting medium employing stone, bricks and mortar. I congratulate the winners of this year’s Aga Khan Awards for architecture, for their achievements in harmonizing functional needs with aesthetic expression.
It is also an honour for India to host these triennial celebrations for the first time since the inception of these awards nearly thirty years ago. We appreciate this gesture of support by His Highness the Aga Khan. This event puts our Capital city in a league with some of the great cities of the world, which have hosted these prestigious award ceremonies. I also understand that separate events, including the release of a commemorative stamp, will be held at the historic Agra Fort tomorrow, for which I extend warmest congratulations.
For us in India, there is also the added symbolism of the Aga Khan Foundation having organized this event at this spectacular setting in the gardens of the Emperor Humayun’s Tomb. It is of course, the first privately funded restoration of a World Heritage Site in our country. The project has indubitably been an unqualified success, with the gardens, pathways, fountains and water channels of the chahar bagh having been brought close to their original perfection. Looking at the magnificent work that has been undertaken here, we cannot but be grateful to the Foundation for its support and help. This effort has been an instructive example for us in finding new and creative solutions to the age-old problem of allocating scarce resources in a developing country to the preservation of our heritage. I hope that more public-private partnerships can be evolved to maintain and restore the monuments of our ancestors, which often lie in neglected condition in our cities and towns.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In this context, I would like to draw attention to the present milieu in which our heritage buildings exist. Perhaps as a result of an embarrassment of riches, we have become indifferent to the condition of these testaments to our past. We should not need reminding that these are legacies for which our generations are only the caretakers, not the owners. We must remember that these belong to succeeding generations, not merely in India, but the world over. Therefore it is essential that we make every effort to preserve and sustain our monuments. This is not solely the responsibility of Governmental agencies, or even the private sector: every Indian must take pride in this legacy, and contribute to ensuring that there remains a legacy for which our descendants can be proud. We can ill-afford further neglect in this regard.
Given this situation, I think the achievements of the Aga Khan Foundation are truly commendable. Through its Historic Cities Support Programme, the Foundation has worked to make a difference in cities of antiquity, ranging from Cairo to our own capital, and every right-thinking citizen of the world bears a debt of gratitude for this. We in India have benefited in the past from the support of His Highness, and his Foundation. We only need remember that seven Indian projects have been honoured with the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in the last eight award ceremonies. These have ranged from Hotel structures to slum networks, from Lepers hospitals to the Vidhan Sabha in Bhopal. This is quite apart from the support provided to the restoration of these magnificent gardens before us today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Aga Khan Foundation has a long history of undertaking developmental work in India. These include the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India), which is assisting the national effort in empowering the most underprivileged segments of our rural communities, including women. Assistance and support have ranged from irrigation and assistance in coping with droughts, to education and health. The Foundation has also helped during times of crisis, through disaster relief works, most recently, after the Gujrat earthquake in 2001. These efforts have been greatly valued in India. We see these as symbols of His Highness’s vision for the world; a vision that is imbued with the true spirit of compassion, humanism and social conscience. These are truly the hallmark of Islam. It is therefore natural that we honour and appreciate His Highness the Aga Khan for all that he has done, and all that I am sure will do for society in the years ahead.
Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Before I conclude, I would like to say a few words about the winning entries for this year’s awards. The seven winning entries today cover a wide spectrum of architectural styles and construction purposes. While the cutting edge of modernity is blended with Asian sensibilities in the Petronas Tower of Malaysia, basic human demands of construction activity are met by the prototypes of sandbag shelters, or the primary school in Burkina Faso, which are being recognized today. The restoration of traditional structures in the old city of Jerusalem, and of the Al-Abbas Mosque in Yemen, are juxtaposed with more modern constructions in Turkey and the Bibliotheca in Egypt. The fact that this celebration of diversity takes place in New Delhi makes it a fitting visual metaphor for the rediscovery of the linkages between India and these civilizations.
Therefore, in conclusion, I would like to salute the role played by the Aga Khan foundation in drawing together these various strands of shared cultural links, charitable work, and preservation of the common heritage of all humanity. I wish the Foundation continuing success in all its endeavours. I am confident that we will have more to celebrate together, in a better and more prosperous future".