New Delhi: Protecting and propagating the rich and diverse culture that the country has been bestowed with and liberating magnificent monuments from encroachers are the top priorities of new Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch who assumed office Monday.
68-year-old Katoch, who belongs to the royal families of Jodhpur and Himachal Pradesh`s Kangra, also rued that Culture Ministry has a minuscule budget though it has a widespread mandate to protect country`s heritage but said the Planning Commission had promised to increase the budget this year.
Assuming office a week after taking oath as a Cabinet minister, the Jodhpur Lok Sabha MP highlighted the threat posed by encroachments to monuments in the country, while promising steps to take care of the structures from getting disfigured and people who have been living near them.
"The Archaeological Survey of India came into existence only 150 years ago. But there are people who have been living near monuments before that. We need to match their interests as well and at the same time we need to protect them from getting disfigured," she told reporters.
Katoch, the daughter of late Maharaja of Jodhpur Hanwant Singh, said her assuming of office got delayed by a week since she was campaigning in Himachal Pradesh for the party.
When pointed out that the budget for the Ministry was low, she acknowledged the fact and said this was one of the first issues that was raised by officials during her formal briefing.
"It is of great concern. I think the Planning Commission has told that they would increase the budget. We are hoping that from Rs 800 crore this year, the budget would be Rs 1600 crore next year," the Minister said.
The veteran Congress leader, who was a minister in the Himachal Congress governments, also said she would focus on coordination with the Ministries of Tourism, HRD and External Affairs to ensure a focused and coordinated efforts to promote culture.