The timing couldn't have been more ironic. At the fag end of its 150th year celebrations, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is set to remain without a professional archaeologist heading it for months to come.
The term of current Director General (DG) Gautam Sengupta ends on January 18. But with less than a month to go, there is no sign of his replacement.
Since mid-1990s, it has been only IAS officers who have headed the ASI. In its attempt to bring in a professional with relevant background, the government had in 2010 put a professional archaeologist at the helm of affairs. Now, with no replacement in sight any soon, one of the two Additional Director General —an IAS officer — would be given charge of the organisation.
A source said: "The file had been pending at the minister's level for months together. For reasons best known to her, earlier minister Kumari Selja dragged her feet on it and left it pending when she went to another ministry."
But, after months of indecision, the ministry of culture has finally woken up from the slumber and advertised for the post in November-end.
The ad clearly mentions 60 days for applicants to send in their resumes.
"Once the candidates are short-listed, these names go for a clearance by the ministry's own selection committee. The minister of culture accords clearance to names before they are passed on the Cabinet Committee on Appointments (CCA). This procedure usually takes a minimum of six months," said a ministry official.
Chandresh Kumari Katoch, who took over the ministry in October, told Hindustan Times: "When I came to know that the appointment is due and the file related to it is pending, I immediately gave a go ahead. I am not aware why it was left pending earlier."
Even when the selection procedure goes on smoothly at the ministry level, there are chances of court cases —as had happened in case of Sengupta — following which, the selection followed by appointment would extend further.
A senior official said: "After years of waiting, the ASI had finally got a professional head. With such dilly-dallying, the government is only making it seem like it wants to go back to the old regime."