A Geological Survey of India (GSI) report that became the basis for the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to start the 'gold hunt' in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district was tampered with, according to experts from the geophysics division of GSI's Lucknow centre.
The hunt for about a 1,000 tonnes of gold, which a seer told officials lies buried at Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh Fort, started on October 18.
A team of experts from the GSI's Lucknow centre, who prepared the original report, said they neither mentioned gold nor recommended an excavation.
They, however, said their report mentioned about the presence of conductive material. According to them, all metals are conductors, but not all conductors are metals. A conductive material could well be a mixture of clay and brine (high concentrated salt water) which is quite common on the river banks.
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"Our report only mentioned conductive material," said A Sundaramoorthy, former GSI director-general who retired on October 31. He added that the original report did not recommend excavations either.
Another senior GSI official of Lucknow centre said no technique on this planet could specify about the presence of metals. "Gold is out of question," said the official, who didn't wish to be named.
He also said that superintending geophysicist SK Mishra, who led a 12-member team at the site, has been struggling in his efforts to convince the higher officials that his team's report has been modified. He has even informed about the 'different' reports to Lok Nath Singh, who heads the geophysics division of GSI in Lucknow.
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Defending the involvement of government agencies in the project, the culture ministry had earlier stated that the mines ministry received the report of the preliminary GSI investigations on October 8, which mentioned "prominent non-magnetic anomalous zone," that indicated possible non-conducting metallic contents or alloys at 5-20 meters below the surface and suggested excavation.
"On the basis of the report it was decided by ASI to undertake excavations to try to determine the nature of the reported deposits," the ministry statement had claimed.
The senior GSI official told HT that the original report, sent to the government after a survey at the site on October 3 and 4, had only suggested the presence of conductive material under the earth near the fort ruins on the banks of river Ganga. He added that the report "was modified for sure after it was sent from Lucknow office".
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From the Lucknow office, as is the norm, the report was sent to the Kolkata-based headquarters of GSI where from it was forwarded to the Union ministry of mines, GSI's parent ministry. He added that even the Ground Penetrating Radar Survey (GPRS), as mentioned in the final report already in public domain, was not carried out at the site as the apparatus for the technique was with some other scientist of the division on an official tour to Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir).
Interestingly, the ASI has never officially admitted it was digging for gold. On Monday, however, when HT contacted PK Mishra, superintending archaeologist of ASI (Lucknow circle), he said: "We do not know about the tampering. We started our work on the basis of the GSI findings."
The GSI officials, who worked on the findings, said they are at a loss for words over the developments. "We do not know who changed the report," said another official. "Our limited survey was not intended to draw any specific conclusions. A normal GSI survey would have taken at least four to five weeks rather than the two days over which the GSI carried out its study," he added.
The new GSI director-general, SC Rath, however, refused to comment on the matter.
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The search for gold in the 19th century fort has so far yielded shards, broken glass bangles and toys among other things. As mystery continues to shroud what lies beneath the ground, the signs of 'treasure' remains elusive even as the ASI is all set to resume its excavation after Diwali break on Tuesday.