…or for that matter for anything else on the world’s latest mass marketing gimmick – ‘The New 7 Wonders of the World.’ I didn’t even vote for Debojit despite my family’s cajoling. There are no moral, ethical or monetary reasons to compel me to vote. My sensibility vouches for my sentiments.

As pointed out before by some bloggers and a little resultantly by some sections in the mainstream media, that this latest craze is just but an international money minting venture trying to cash in on the emotions of people. In advertising class we were precisely taught this. For India the Bhaskar Group’s I Media Corporation Limited had won the exclusive marketing and media rights for the campaign, and they went about it with dexterity.

First there were reports that the Taj was lagging behind and unsentimental Indians were doing nothing about their heritage. It was followed by yet another reminder that Indians weren’t doing anything for their dear Taj. Then came stories about the voting picking up, but there weren’t enough to push it through the final seven. See the trend here? Very well thought of and well executed. Internet, TV, radio, print everything was made a part of this publicity blitzkrieg. In between two lilting numbers the sweet-voiced RJ doesn’t forget to remind us Indians of our duty – to vote for the Taj.

There’s nothing wrong with making money, it is an open market. I too try to make some. SMS polls for ‘talent shows’ have shown Indians another way to blow their money away. But I am within my rights not to contribute to this frenzy and so are you. Think of this, realistically. What benefit will the Taj Mahal and India garner with this ‘new found’ ‘Seven Wonder’ status? An influx of tourists? Taj Mahal is already the face of Indian tourism around the world and people do not need to be told an old story again. What difference would it make if the monument didn’t feature on some obnoxious list? I went to see the Taj twiceover. I don’t need someone else with a brilliant marketing idea to tell me that the Taj is beautiful, I know it is.

I would’ve liked to see the response within the country if an Indian organisation like the INTACH and not a Swiss-Canadian had initiated this?

Here are a few tidbits that you might want to savour:

* The New 7 Wonders site says, “Fifty percent of all net revenue raised by the New 7 Wonders Project is to be used to fund restoration efforts worldwide.” Where will the other fifty percent go?

* Bernard Weber writes in his blog “in just two days, the government signed an official letter for customs to waive the import tax on our airship and to expedite the clearance.” Of late there has been a number of objections regarding waiver of import duties. I don’t know much about the rules, but someone should check whether Tourism Minister Ambika Soni was too overzealous in facilitating the exemptions.

* And the aforementioned incident lead Weber to announce, “a world record in a country that has a huge and obviously effective administrative bureaucracy.” We know what our bureaucracy is.

* Another gem from the Swiss adventurer’s blog, “the national animal, in this case the Indian elephant.” Who knows our foreign-fixation might just lead a change in the national animal from the Royal Bengal Tiger (who is rarely visible) to the more present and easily accessible elephant. You can’t take a ride on a Royal Bengal, that’s bad for tourism.

* The New 7 Wonders project isn’t just limited to a list and a promise of restoration of monuments. It is a full scale business empire in the making consisting of merchandise sales and international tour operations. And the prices, definitely not reasonable.

Very rightly the UNSECO has refused to give any credence to this gimmick and its observations show the true picture:

Although UNESCO was invited to support this project on several occasions, the Organizaton decided not to collaborate with Mr. Weber.

UNESCO’s objective and mandate is to assist countries in identifying, protecting and preserving World Heritage. Acknowledging the sentimental or emblematic value of sites and inscribing them on a new list is not enough. Scientific criteria must be defined, the quality of candidates evaluated, and legislative and management frameworks set up…

There is no comparison between Mr Weber’s mediatised campaign and the scientific and educational work resulting from the inscription of sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The list of the “7 New Wonders of the World” will be the result of a private undertaking, reflecting only the opinions of those with access to the internet and not the entire world. This initiative cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by this public.

I repeat that I didn’t vote for the Taj and with whatever time is left in there I wouldn’t. Lynch me. Will you?

(Will post the related ad campaign after the voting process in over)

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