Arche­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of In­dia

It is time to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and list of the im­por­tance of mon­u­ments in a bet­ter way.

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The Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of In­dia (ASI) has the re­spon­si­bil­ity for main­te­nance and up­keep of all mon­u­ments and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites no­ti­fied by the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia as a pro­tected mon­u­ment un­der the An­cient Mon­u­ments and Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites and Re­mains Act 1958.

Some of the states have also en­acted sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion and no­ti­fied mon­u­ments and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites un­der the Acts. It is quite im­per­a­tive to pro­tect and re­deem the lesser known mon­u­ments, many of which are ly­ing in derelict state at present all over the coun­try. All this would be fine if each state puts in place a Her­itage Act and lists in it all her­itage sites that need to be pro­tected. A broader out­look needed for her­itage preser­va­tion in In­dia in gen­eral and in Metro cities in par­tic­u­lar. It is a her­culean task to pro­tect such her­itage struc­tures in the Met­ros. FSI should not come in the way to cause dam­age to her­itage struc­tures in the City.

Un­for­tu­nately, those who own such prop­er­ties are not aware of the her­itage in their pos­ses­sion and of­ten con­sider it to be a hin­drance to progress. It is on this opin­ion that we have much to say. If we are to go by this, most build­ings that we would con­sider to be of her­itage value would have to be de­mol­ished. Yet, the very age of the build­ings would make it qual­ify for pro­tec­tion, as it rep­re­sents an era that has gone by. Se­condly, does ev­ery struc­ture that mer­its pro­tec­tion need to nec­es­sar­ily have sculp­tures, in­scrip­tions or unique artis­tic in­ter­est. We do not hold a brief for the con­cerned her­itage in the list for de­mo­li­tion.

The Court has ruled and it is time to make up our mind if such a struc­ture is de­mol­ished. Sim­i­larly, there is need for im­me­di­ate ne­ces­sity pass­ing of a Her­itage Act. This should be fol­lowed up with a list­ing of her­itage struc­tures across the City, grad­ing them on the ba­sis of their im­por­tance and af­ford­ing them pro­tec­tion of that ba­sis. There are wellestab­lished norms for this and we do not have to rein­vent the wheel. The role of cit­i­zen is man­i­fold and must play a piv­otal role and for that public-pri­vate part­ner­ship is the need for the hour to draft a plan and see that how that is im­ple­mented with­out caus­ing dam­age to her­itage build­ings. The sug­ges­tions, opin­ions and con­cerns can be con­sid­ered through a voice vote or through opin­ion polls in the me­dia.

In­dia’s mon­u­men­tal her­itage is on the brink of a shame­ful shift. The Cen­tral gov­ern­ment is poised to in­tro­duce an amend­ment to

The track record of the gov­ern­ment in main­tain­ing our na­tion­ally pro­tected mon­u­ments, to put it most char­i­ta­bly, is an in­dif­fer­ent one. It is time to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and list out the im­por­tance of mon­u­ments in a bet­ter way. Bet­ter coun­cil should pre­vail for the up­keep and main­te­nance of mon­u­ments of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal im­por­tance.

the An­cient Mon­u­ments and Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Sites and Re­mains Act, 1958, in Par­lia­ment, which would re­move the se­cu­rity net that ex­ists around our na­tion­ally pro­tected mon­u­ments. The track record of the gov­ern­ment in main­tain­ing our na­tion­ally pro­tected mon­u­ments, to put it most char­i­ta­bly, is an in­dif­fer­ent one. It is time to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and list out the im­por­tance of mon­u­ments in a bet­ter way. Bet­ter coun­cil should pre­vail for the up­keep and main­te­nance of mon­u­ments of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal im­por­tance.

Poorly Guarded

We find that there are en­croach­ments by gov­ern­ment agen­cies and in­di­vid­u­als. This meant that more than two-thirds of In­dia’s mon­u­ments that the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment is sup­posed to pro­tect were poorly guarded. At the same time, the CAG pointed to con­nivance by ASI of­fi­cials as well. As the files of the ASI re­veal, there are also nu­mer­ous in­stances where politi­cians have proac­tively pro­tected those who have il­le­gally oc­cu­pied the pro­hib­ited zone around mon­u­ments. As a con­se­quence of this statute, the Na­tional Mon­u­ments Au­thor­ity was set up. It is shock­ing that even af­ter these years, a ma­jor task of this au­thor­ity re­mains to be done, that of pre­par­ing her­itage bye-laws for na­tion­ally pro­tected mon­u­ments.

In­ci­den­tally, the Cab­i­net note shows that the

Min­istry of Cul­ture, in­stead of pro­tect­ing mon­u­ments, is now act­ing a clear­ing house for the Min­istry of Road Trans­port and High­ways. Metro, mono­rail and ex­pan­sion of lo­cal rail­way line all put pres­sure on these mon­u­ments of na­tional im­por­tance. The amend­ment is nec­es­sary, the Cab­i­net note states, be­cause, among other things, an el­e­vated road needs to be built in front of Ak­bar’s tomb in Agra! Taj Ma­hal is fac­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal dan­gers. Re­cently as winds with ve­loc­ity of over 130 km per hour swept Agra, a minaret at the en­try gate of the Taj Ma­hal col­lapsed late on Wed­nes­day night. The 12feet metal pil­lar at the en­try gate, re­ferred to as Dar­waza-e-Rauza, crashed just past mid­night. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, a minaret south gate fell off, while a small white dome was hit too. Sources said that the main mon­u­ment was also af­fected dur­ing that 40-minute long rain­fall in the re­gion.

Qutab Mi­nar af­ter a ma­jor stam­pede ac­ci­dent lost its nat­u­ral sur­round­ings and peo­ple were not al­lowed to go up and watch Delhi through Mehrauli. Sa­mar­i­tans and the Min­istry of Cul­ture should do a world of good and cul­tural pro­tec­tion is the need of the hour. In­dia’s mon­u­ments form an ir­re­place­able ar­chive of our civil­i­sa­tional her­itage. Our pride in our her­itage has al­ways been sur­plus while car­ing for that her­itage suf­fers a huge deficit. Surely, In­dia’s ar­chae­o­log­i­cal her­itage, as di­verse and price­less as our nat­u­ral her­itage, seventy years af­ter In­de­pen­dence, de­serves bet­ter than what has fallen to its lot.

The Taj Ma­hal, Agra.

The Qutab Mi­nar, Delhi.

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