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ASI looks for private aid

The Centre is exploring the prospect of greater corporate participation in conservation of protected monuments, writes Hemendra Singh Bartwal.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2006 16:15 IST

The Centre is exploring the prospect of greater corporate participation in conservation of protected monuments in the country.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), entrusted with the job of ensuring the safety and upkeep of 3,667 heritage monuments is reeling from a resource crunch and conservation is becoming a casualty. The government plans to move the various chambers of commerce and industry for financial assistance from the private sector.

Of the 3,667 monuments under the Archaeological Survey of India's care, nearly 2,000 are protected monuments and the rest are archaeological sites. Some of the important monuments include the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Hampi and the Ajanta-Ellora caves, which figure high on the world heritage map.

The Archaeological Survey of India was founded by archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham in India in 1861.

Sources in the ASI said, the resource crunch is taking its toll on the numerous smaller sites and monuments lying neglected across the country.

"Finance and manpower are the major problems," admits culture secretary Badal Kumar Das. The budgetary outlay of Rs 98 crore for conservation falls far short of ASI's requirement. Though the government had set up a National Culture Fund to create a private pool, only a few corporate bodies have pitched in with grants, he said.

Das said, a major anomaly in ASI funding is that the money collected as entry fees, which comes to around Rs 53 crore, goes directly to the central coffer. A proposal to transfer the entire amount to the ASI is likely to be cleared by the finance ministry, the culture secretary said. This would considerably improve the financial position of the organisation.

The culture ministry will soon convene a meeting of the representatives of the prominent chambers of commerce and industry like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Assocham and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to explore greater corporate involvement - by way of enhanced contribution to the National Culture Fund.

At present, the Agha Khan Foundation, the World Monument Fund, the Oberoi Group of hotels, Apeejay Surendra Hotels and Indian Hotels Company sponsor ASI projects. The public sector undertakings involved in conservation include Indian Oil Corporation and SAIL.