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Piggyback Privilege

Piggyback Privilege

Author: Uday Mahurkar
Publication: India Today
Date: August 1, 2005

Introduction: A village attracts funds because of the heritage status it has got thanks to a royal family scion

Many royals of India have done well for themselves by using their past as a privilege. But very few have helped their former subjects benefit from the spin-offs of heritage. When Raghavendra Singh, 30, a scion of a royal family of Madhya Pradesh and a descendent of the legendary Maharana Pratap, quit his professional career three years ago after having worked in ITC and Tata Tea, he had a plan not only for his 60-room legacy spread over 60 acres but also for Amla, his village near Ujjain, which has a population of 7,000.

Instead of seeking heritage hotel status for his palace alone he sought heritage village status for Amla from the state Government and got it. His father Kunwar Jitendra Singhji proved to be a source of inspiration in this endeavour. Amla has received extra attention from development agencies since getting heritage village status and the difference this has made is there for everybody to see.

Today, it is one of the few villages in Madhya Pradesh that has been sanctioned a separate electricity feeder line for domestic use by the state electricity board. In the days to come Amla's farmers might face a power cut while drawing water for their farms but not its domestic users. In another gesture, Amla's folk artists and craftsmen were given Rs 25 lakh by the Government to help them sustain their traditional skills. A potholed, 5-km approach road to the village is likely to be rebuilt in the days to come.

Singh pumped in Rs 30 lakh to do up his 300-year-old palace embellished with attractive designs of Rajput architecture. He got a loan of Rs 35 lakh from the Government for further improving his hotel which has now started attracting a good clientele. The village too is getting funds. Singh is helping the village panchayat plan a deer park on a 3.5-hectare plot belonging to it. Again, he will use the heritage village status of Amla to get money for this. Says Amla's sarpanch Prakash Rathod: "The heritage status we have got because of the royal family "411 take us places. We are now ideally poised for growth."

Singh, who is aided by his wife Shivika Kumari in his efforts, is one of the very few royals of the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh to take up heritage hoteliering. Today, thanks to him, his entire village has a finger in the heritage pie.

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