In 2007, when Parliament was informed that as many as 35 centrally protected heritage monuments across the country had gone missing due to urbanisation, there was a big hue and cry.
Twelve of the monuments were in Delhi.
Two years later, the government — to be precise, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) — has not taken any preventive or corrective measures.
Officials of the government body admit that no comprehensive survey or investigation of such sites was done.
“There was no inquiry into the missing monuments, simply because it did not happen overnight but over several years,” said a senior ASI
official who did not wish to be quoted.
Another query in Parliament had directly pointed to “rapid urbanisation and development” as the cause for encroachment at heritage monuments and they going “missing”.
Legal battles are on over some monuments.
At some other structures, unauthorised buildings have come up within the prohibited area.
“If you cut a tree, it can be grown again. (But) such monuments are non-renewable heritage. Once you lose it, it is gone forever,” said Nayanjot Lahiri, a professor of History at Delhi University.
Lahiri is also an authority
on archaeology of India.
She suggested stricter implementation of the existing laws and more importantly, accountability.
“The officials must carry out routine inspection of all protected monuments and submit reports. So, when it becomes a responsibility, any encroachment can be detected and removed soon,” said Lahiri.
Lahiri has several books and research papers on archaeology to her credit.
Sohail Hashmi of Sahmat, an NGO that wrote to the Prime Minister recently drawing his attention to the encroachment at heritage monuments, said: “We are strange people. We keep talking about our rich heritage, but leave no chance to obliterate such beautiful monuments.”