The Constitution of India enjoins duty upon every citizen to protect and preserve the ancient heritage of India. We, thus have a special responsibility to remain vigilant about the preservation of our ancient heritage and contribute to the cause, as much as possible. At the government level this responsibility is shared by the Ministry of Culture with the Archeological Survey of India as its immediate working arm in the restoration and preservation of ancient heritage. Although, how far ASI is able to succeed in this task is a matter of sincere inquiry.
CAG Report, 2013, titled, “Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiquities”, is an eye opening document on the lethargic functioning of ASI and to summarize in short the major flaws outlined in the report read as follows:
- Lack of funds & comprehensive survey of sites.
- ASI did not have a reliable database of the exact number of protected monuments under its jurisdiction.
- During the field survey inspections it is found out that out of the sample of 165 centrally protected monuments selected by CAG, 92 monuments (6%) were not traceable. This was far higher than the number communicated to the Parliament by the ASI.
- There were numerous cases of encroachment and unauthorized construction in and around the protected sites.
- ASI did not have an updated and approved Conservation Policy to address the conservation and preservation requirements.
- Inspection notes on the condition of monuments were not being prepared by the ASI officials. There was poor documentation of the conservation works. Even basic records such as measurement books, log books and site registers were not being maintained properly.
- One of the primary activities of the ASI was exploration and excavation of the remains in the country and their study. However, it was observed that the ASI was spending less than 1% of its total expenditure on such activities.
- The ASI did not have a Comprehensive Policy guideline for the management of Antiquities owned by it. There were no standards for acquisition, preservation, documentation and custody of objects possessed by the ASI.
- There were acute shortages of staff in all key positions in the ASI. This adversely affected the security and maintenance of monuments. Governance from the Ministry of Culture was lax and was found deficient on aspects of adequacy of policy and legislation, financial management, monitoring of conservation projects and provision of human resources to these organizations.
In recent times, there has been an increase witnessed in the consciousness of Indian community towards ancient heritage and its conservation. CAG Report 2013, adds fuel to it. And many among us are deeply concerned about the status of ancient Hindu religious sites, as they are one of the oldest existing sites on planet Earth. Sarayu Trust shares that same concern and in order to pursue this quest, we have filed a series of RTIs to dig deeper in knowing the current status of Hindus religious sites that are centrally protected under ASI. The inquiry was basically pursued on two aspects, namely :
- Details of Hindu religious sites that are under ASI protection.
- Estimates of annual expenditures made by ASI in the preservation of these sites.
Note: Kindly check RTIs uploaded under the tag of this summary note for further details.