THE PROPOSAL to establish a railway station/stoppage near Bhimbetka – the world heritage prehistoric site – might finally be shelved with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) standing its ground on its objections and the West Central Railway authorities not finding the project economically too viable.
Another round of discussion in this matter was held on Friday between the senior officials of the ASI and the West Central Railways at the Bhimbetka site. The WCR General Manager Mahip Kapur, Superintendent archaeologist of the MP Circle of ASI Mohammad K K, Chief Commercial Manager of Bhopal K V Narayan Rao, Additional Divisional Railway Manager (ADRM), Bhopal Alok Gupta, ASI officer S N Srivasatava (in-charge of Bhimbetka site) and others, attended the meeting.
The ASI officials reportedly stood their ground on refusal of clearance for the proposed Railway stoppage, maintaining that a sensitive pre-historic site listed as World Heritage, Bhimbetka cannot be turned into a mass tourism site.
The railways is proposing a station at Bhimbetka, just about 45 kms from Bhopal to facilitate tourist inflow to the world heritage site. However, the ASI is clear in its stand that a railway station would only serve to increase the inflow of tourist to an unwanted degree and might go on to cause harm to the sensitive pre-historic cave paintings at the site.
The sensitivity of such prehistoric cave painting sites can be gauged from the fact that only seven tourists are allowed per day to visit the caves at the world heritage site Altamira in Spain.
The official correspondence between the ASI and the West Central Railway authorities is on since about a year now, after the ASI, coming to know about the proposed railway station, shot off a letter to the WCR authorities at Jabalpur putting forth its objection to the project.
The matter has been in limbo since and another round of meeting between higher officials was held on Friday to sort the matter out.
The Railway authorities too are understood to be not keen anymore on the project owing to its poor economic viability and might finally shelve the project.
ASI superintendent archaeologist K K Mohammad told Hindustan Times that the the ASI maintained its stand during the meeting. ADRM Alok Gupta said that the discussions are in progress in view of the status of Bhimbetka as world heritage site and the ASI standpoint.
Points of discussion
Unviable: Not only is ASI adamant on its stance against a railway station at Bhimbetka, but the Railways too are finding the project financially unviable.
Objections: ASI officials maintain that such a sensitive pre-historic site listed as world heritage cannot be turned into a mass tourism site.