Will monuments in the city ever get rid of squatters and encroachers?
With the high court recently constituting a committee to remove encroachments from protected monuments, the issue has once again gained momentum with experts arguing whether there would be any action this time or the committee would meet the same fate as its predecessors.
Having requested the district administration to get the monuments rid of squatters several times before, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) - the central heritage watchdog - does not seem much excited. The agency can only request, but not compel the district authorities to evict illegal occupants, they reason.
“We have been writing to the district administration for years now. Ultimately, it is them who have to implement,” an ASI official said.
In 2011, the high court had directed the district administration to remove encroachments around the monuments but they have only increased in number, he added.
Presently, of 249 centrally protected monuments suffering from encroachment in the country, 79 are in Uttar Pradesh.
While 13 of them come under the Agra circle of the ASI, 66 others are in the Lucknow circle.
“ASI is toothless. We need an implementation agency to handle the heritage and political will to get things going on g round,” said Mohammad Haider on whose PIL the court constituted the committee on October 10.
Haider’s cynicism may not be entirely misplaced. On ground, ASI, which is responsible for conservation and protection of monuments, has no authority of implementing the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, which governs its functioning.
In that case, ASI seeks assistance from district administration.
The buck then stops at the district administration. Off and on, there have been drives for eviction of encroachments by the administration with success in some cases.
But in the majority, it is the encroachers whose will prevails. At times, fear of strict action taking religious turn also pushes the administration on the back foot.
“The committee would meet after festivals,” a district administration official said.