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Explorer hurt at official apathy

A DAY after announcing discovery of fossilised dinosaur eggs by Mangal Panchayatan Parishad, its president Vishal Verma is disheartened at the apathetic approach of the administration, which he claims has not been forthcoming in properly protecting the sites of the pre-historic heritage and also in preserving the other archaeological artifacts found in Dhar district.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2007 19:35 IST

A DAY after announcing discovery of fossilised dinosaur eggs by Mangal Panchayatan Parishad, its president Vishal Verma is disheartened at the apathetic approach of the administration, which he claims has not been forthcoming in properly protecting the sites of the pre-historic heritage and also in preserving the other archaeological artifacts found in Dhar district.

The Parishad members had discovered more than 100 fossilised eggs of dinosaurs from the Cretaceous era (approximately 144 to 65 million years ago) in Kukshi-Bagh area in Dhar district. Soon after the discovery, they had asked the Dhar Collector to declare the area as a protected site to prevent anti-social elements from smuggling out the treasure.

“Leave alone protection, when we wanted to handover the fossilised eggs to the administration on Monday, there was no representative to take charge of the valuable findings. At present, we have just been given a store room in Chhappan Mahal museum,” Verma told Hindustan Times from Mandu, approximately 100 kms from Indore.

The Parishad had brought the latest fossilised egg collection and also a long rock slab, which has one of the nests containing fossilised eggs, to Mandu to be handed over to the administration as they feel Mandu can be the right place instead of Manawar, their base, as it already has a ‘Ashmdha Fossil Museum’ and the hill station is also a favourite tourist spot, accessible by road.

The zealous group has been spending entirely out of their own pockets for more than a decade now and except for one officer, the administration has been squarely lacking in any initiative to lap up the achievements of the Parishad. “My salary is peanuts.

I have blown up my father’s entire retirement fund on these explorations. We are not asking for the moon but we want the administration to at least give due recognition to our efforts,” Verma, an M Sc (Physics), who is a contractual teacher in the government set up, said.

The Parishad has been into exploration of fossils for almost a decade now. Apart from plant fossils and fossilised dinosaurs bones, the team members have also discovered articles of archaeological importance. They had earlier discovered ‘stupas’ which are probably more than 2,000 years old. Their other findings include jewellery made from shells, elephant teeth and weapons from bones and stone.

“We had handed over our earlier findings - the fossilised bones and other archaeological artifacts, including old coins - to the administration. We did not take a single paisa. The articles were duly placed in a museum at Mandu, but to our horror and sorrow we found that over time many of these items have been stolen by unscrupulous elements. Many photos, beads, bone jewellery have been found to be damaged,” Verma rued.

Starting alone some 12 years ago, Verma’s efforts gathered steam when he formed a formal group - the Mangal Panchayatan Parishad - after others joined him.

Govind Verma (vice-president) runs a private school while Rajesh Chouhan, who has a masters degree in Zoology from DAVV Indore, joined Verma in 1997-98. “Vishal’s grudge is apt as except for Zilla Panchayat CEO Navneet Kothari, we have not been receiving any help from the administration,” Chouhan, Parishad’s secretary, said. Kothari, he said, has even arranged not to deduct their salaries during the time they spent on explorations during last more than a month. Dhar Collector R K Gupta was unavailable for comment, as he is on leave.