The central government will soon set up a commission to frame guidelines for conserving heritage monuments and sites that are on the verge of decay.
This was decided by the cabinet, presided over by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in New Delhi on Thursday.
The National Commission for Heritage Sites Bill will be introduced in the next session of parliament, said a statement issued after the meeting.
"The national commission to be established under the new legislation was considered necessary as the existing legislative framework is inadequate to provide protection to a large number of heritage sites that are currently not conserved or maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) or the state archaeology departments," the cabinet note said.
The ASI takes care of 37,000 heritage sites across the country. But experts say over 50,000 heritage sites are unprotected and lying neglected.
The national commission will be headed by a chairman and will have seven members with expertise in the fields of archaeology, history, architecture, ecology, conservation, sociology, anthropology, science and technology and environment sciences.
Among the important functions of the commission are formulations of short and long-term policies in respect of conservation, protection and management of heritage sites, laying down standards for development and formulation of guidelines and establishment of a heritage sites roster, the statement said.
The commission will also recommend to the central government those heritage sites to be recommended for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
"The new legislation will also provide a framework for meeting international obligations under UNESCO Heritage Conservation to which India is a signatory since 1977," the statement said.
The commission will be empowered to issue directions to owners and controllers of heritage sites for their conservation and maintenance and to ensure compliance with such directions.