The Centre has given an 'in-principle' nod to Archaeological Survey of India's (ASI) restructuring exercise—to ensure improved infrastructure and enhanced manpower—for better management of protected monuments.
Apart from the conservation and maintenance of 3,678 monuments across India, the restructuring of the more than 150-year-old 'custodian of heritage' will also improve excavation and exploration, a necessary step to know pre-Christian era history and links to the ancient civilization.
The restructuring exercise will open the doors for new recruitment, first to fill up the vacant posts against existing sanctioned strength and then, creating more posts followed by hiring.
Presently, against the sanctioned strength of 5,000-odd group D monument attendants —the first in the line of duty as the watch and ward staff — as many as 1877 had lapsed. As a first step towards revamping the ASI, the government has revived these posts and paved way for recruitment.
The ASI plans to absorb as many temporary staff and go for new hiring for the rest.
Several committees in the past, including the latest, the Moily Committee (2010) and the departmental Parliamentary Standing Committee, have recommended that the sanctioned strength be increased to 9,000 for group D and about 2000-odd for technical and administrative staff.
"The government has given an in-principle approval for restructuring," said Pravin Srivastava, director general, ASI.
Lack of manpower hampers not just the day to day work but the extremely important core competency of the ASI, the conservation, excavation and exploration work. "Moreover, with more circles and sub-circles, it would be easier for the ASI staff to reach the monuments spread out in far flung areas of the country," said a senior ASI officer. The number of circle offices would be increased from 24 to 37 as per the proposal.
"We held a detailed meeting recently with top culture ministry officials. Our original proposal has to be slightly reworked," said Srivastava.
The Moily Committee — set up by the Prime Minister under the chairpersonship of former Union law minister Veerappa Moily — had prepared an exhaustive report.
The ASI had told the committee that the current strength, especially of monument attendants, was so inadequate that it does not even ensure deploying one person for each of its 3678 monuments.
It hardly suffices for two-thirds of its monuments. The ASI would need a minimum of 10,000 monument attendants. But there is a rider to this development.
Sources within the organisation said, "There is already a talk of a merger of group D and C posts and the powers that want more posts outsourced. This is not necessary.”