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Par panel unhappy over shortage of ASI monument attendants

A Parliamentary Estimates Committee on Tuesday rapped the Ministry of Culture for failing to ensure that ASI had enough monument attendants to look after heritage structures and reduce its dependence on paramilitary and police.



New Delhi: A Parliamentary Estimates
Committee on Tuesday rapped the Ministry of Culture for failing to
ensure that ASI had enough monument attendants to look after
heritage structures and reduce its dependence on paramilitary
and police personnel.

The committee, which had recommended in 2008 that the
government take expeditious steps to strengthen the watch and
ward staff of the ASI, said it was unhappy with the action
taken by the government in this regard.
It is "regrettable" that "detailed proposals have not
been furnished yet by the field offices of the ASI," the
Estimates Committee report said.

It noted that the ASI has a shortfall of 5,000 monument
attendants, as a result of which it was depending on the
services of police and paramilitary forces leading to huge
expenditure. The panel said no concrete action has been taken
to cope with the problem.

The committee asked the Ministry to take expeditious
steps "to augment and strengthen the watch and ward staff of
the ASI" and recommended that ex-servicemen can also be
inducted for the job.

Given the large number of encroachments on historical
monuments, the committee said it was a matter of concern that
its recommendations on measures to curtail illegal
constructions are yet to be put into force.

It said no concrete action has been taken on the
recommendation that a committee be constituted on the pattern
of Delhi for carrying out periodical inspections.

It also reiterated its recommendation urging the Ministry
to evolve a suitable mechanism for interaction between ASI and
state archaeological departments.

The committee said the Ministry of Culture should launch
consultation with the Ministry of Law and Justice for
establishing a formal regular mechanism of contacts with the
state archaeological departments.

"It is surprising why the Ministry has not initiated any
expeditious action in this regard when reports of untraceable
monuments as well as illegal constructions/encroachments are
prevalent," it said.
The committee also instructed the Ministry of Culture to
take concrete steps to increase its revenue in consultation
with the Ministry of Tourism and State Tourism Departments,
expressing dissatisfaction over the action taken by the
government since its recommendations.

"Instead of just directing the field offices, the
Ministry should formulate a workable action plan, take
necessary steps to implement the plan and then make a
concerted effort through all field offices to actually reap
the economic potential of the structures," it said.

The panel also noted with displeasure that no action has
been taken on its recommendation regarding making a provision
in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains
Act, 1958 for consulting state governments before taking a
decision to declare a monument centrally protected.

It also said that the government`s response detailing the
actions taken by it following its recommendations to the 14th
Lok Sabha was silent on their specific recommendation that the
Ministry should review the methods of systems adopted by other
countries for exploration and excavation work.

This, it said, was vital for bringing ASI`s existing
methodology at par with international standards.

The committee said it was distressed to note that out of
56 pending excavation reports only 23 have been received by
the Ministry.

"Even after the lapse of nine months of the presentation
of the report, 33 excavation reports are still pending," it
noted, asking the Ministry to fix a time period for all the
concerned universities, governments and research bodies to
complete the pending excavation reports and said licence for
excavation should not be considered in favour of defaulters.

Expressing concern over the fact that 25 centrally
protected monuments were untraceable, it said the Ministry
should fix responsibility in this regard.

"It is regrettable to note that the reply furnished by
the Ministry is silent on their specific recommendation that
they devise a mechanism in consultation with other authorities
to ascertain that there are no hidden remains in a particular
area before starting any new development work," it said.

PTI

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