THE world over, heritage is conserved as a showcase to the historical evidence of the identity, culture and pedigree of a country, but the same is not the case in India — a land of a glorious historical past embodied by a rich repertoire of abundant magnificent monuments.Most heritage sites in India, as per a CAG report, are in a dilapidated state. Of the 1,655 monuments surveyed, 92 were found missing. While the Archaeological Survey of India should be worrying about conservation, it had much on its plate — like digging in vain for gold at Unnao.
This is the scathing observation by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its recent performance audit of preservation and conservation of monuments and antiquities. Conservation of “culture is not a priority for India”, it lamented, indicting the Culture Ministry for neglecting museums and monuments.
Apart from glaring shortcomings in the approach towards conservation, the comprehensive account also discovered a sad trail of missing and disappearing heritage sites; and encroached monuments and protected sites being used as cremation ground, even public toilets — like at a site in the ancient Indus Valley. Quoting the “horrifying” case of a site in Dharwad, Karnataka, it said even “Union Minister Jairam Ramesh’s intervention could not make the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) move”.
The national auditor found 92 monuments missing from the 1,655 monuments it surveyed. The 1,655 monuments formed 45 per cent of the total protected sites, meaning that the survey presented the auditors with a good sense of what was happening across the country.
Auditors accused the ASI of not surveying monuments it was supposed to be looking after for decades. This, they said, was one of the reasons why CAG found little or no information when a protected monument fell prey to the greed of builders or local people and went missing.
They found unauthorised religious activities in monuments and shockingly, even the upkeep of Taj Mahal and Red Fort was found wanting for lack of money. Valuable heritage has been left to disintegrate by the people responsible for its preservation — the Ministry of Culture and the ASI.
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