In March this year, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a government agency responsible for preserving India’s cultural heritage, admitted that 35 of its protected monuments were "untraceable".
This information, which came as an answer to a question in Parliament on March 12, was apparently half-baked. In a performance audit of the ASI, a Comptroller and Auditor General's report said that at least 92 monuments across the country were missing.
Ironically, the CAG audit report that was tabled in Parliament in August-end said 16 of those 'missing' monuments were from Uttar Pradesh. This was the highest number of monuments that went 'missing' in any state.
Almost two months later, the ASI is busy "digging for gold" in Uttar Pradesh after a sadhu (seer), Shobhan Sarkar, dreamt that 1,000 tonnes of gold was buried under a ruined palace at Dandiyakhera village in Unnao district. The otherwise laidback ASI promptly sent archaeologists to the UP village who began digging on Friday.
The much-hyped gold excavation is being carried out by the ASI after Sarkar's dream was taken seriously by Union minister of state for agriculture and food processing industry Charan Das Mahant, who visited the area and met the seer earlier. The minister then directed the ASI to work on it.
Many believe he took the dream seriously as Sarkar has a history of several correct prophecies. The seer claims he wants it (the gold) in government hands to help India recover from the ongoing economic crisis.
The nondescript village of Dandiyakhera suddenly became the centre of attraction following the seer Sarkar’s prophecy and the curiosity stirred by it among the media and common man.
The ASI reportedly claimed that it has reasons to believe that there might be a hidden treasure. When a team of ASI experts visited the site on Sunday and drilled holes at a point shown by Sarkar, the drilling machine hit something that seemed about 20 metres deep.
"We can establish it's the treasure only after we dig that deep,” a member of the ASI team said on condition of anonymity.
ASI experts have, however, said it may take the agency five weeks to hit the treasure. The ASI experts have made it clear that they will go extremely slow when it comes to digging. They have advised the workforce not to dig more than three foot in eight hours.
This is what ASI plans to dig in a day. But according to the calculations of the seer and the Geographical Survey of India (GSI) mapping, the archeologists would need to dig 20 metres or close to 65 foot.
With the rate of three foot a day, the excavation would take at least five weeks.
So, even as the rupee strengthened at 61.22 per dollar on Friday, the fate of gold (in Unnao) seemed unpredictable.