|The trend of missing is in. We saw Coalgate files gone missing and now CAG tells us that 92 heritage monuments have gone missing. From as small as files in size to as big as monuments, we can manage everything to disappear. Though the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has repeatedly admitted to only 35 monuments to be lost, but CAG’s figures have exposed government’s claim. According to CAG, it checked about some 1,655 protected monuments out of the total monuments and sites and found 92 monuments missing. Total figure of missing monuments may be higher, if all monuments are inspected. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), responsible for conservation and protection of Heritage monuments has been caught unaware, though it’s not new for them, for dereliction of its duty.
But has the National Commission for Heritage Sites Bill 2009, aimed at creation of a National Commission for Preservation of Heritage Sites, also gone missing? If not, then where is it? According to PRS legislative research, the bill was introduced by government on 26th Feb 2009; and then referred to committee. Sadly, the bill remains dead since 2009. It certainly reflects the missing intention to protect our heritage monuments. The bill is a step towards protecting the large number of heritage sites lying in a state of neglect and seeks to meet the frameworks set out by the UNESCO Convention, 1972. Among other functions, the proposed National Commission for preservation of heritage sites shall maintain the heritage sites roster and create guidelines for the conservation of these sites.
The CAG audit has pointed out lucidly that ASI does not even know the number of monuments it is supposed to protect. Worst discovered is the fact that ASI does not even possess notification documents for many of its monuments, which is the legal basis of the boundary of a monument, and is the prime tool to check encroachments. Illegal mazaar and temple have been reported to come up inside Red Fort, while there are at least 24 unauthorized constructions around Taj Mahal in prohibited area. CAG’s report has also pulled up ASI on 131 antiquities which have been stolen from monuments and ASI sites and 37 antiquities from site museums till 2012. ASI has done nothing except registering a FIR.
Recently, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which constructs highways, had to spare a 1000-year-old Siva temple at Manampadi village in Thanjavur district while taking up road expansion, after people of the village, historians and archaeologists opposed the proposed demolition. The temple was built by King Rajendra (1012 to 1044 AD). This is an example of people’s movement who are educated about the existing heritage in their area and this is also an example of insensitive organization like NHAI, who had plans of demolishing it without realizing the value of heritage.
Now if ASI does not have eyes and teeth to check this crumbling and disappearance of heritage, then why the National Commission for Heritage Sites Bill 2009, is being buried to death. The significance of the bill can be understood by the fact that it was then at the time of introduction lauded by UNESCO, but it has now been forgotten by government completely. The fact stands tall staring into eyes; do we have intention to live with our heritage? Any new organization will be as good or bad as the people running it.