How did a private holiday bungalow come up within a heritage structure that is supposed to be ASI protected?
The structure that is known as the Augustinian church is there in our list, but we have still not been able to verify whether it is an ASI-protected monument or not. We have several such monuments in our lists, which are recorded by name but we are not sure if they are physically present in those particular areas. We lack proper records of that. That is probably the reason why action was not taken when bungalow came up. But I admit that the preservation in Chaul area is not good.
What is the ASI going to do about the issue now?
I have asked the site in-charge at Alibaug to personally meet the local revenue in-charge and look through the records. I have also asked him to send me photographs of all the monuments in the area, after which I will decide about further action. Also, action can be taken only if we find records stating that the bungalow was made after 1992, which would prove that it is unauthorised.
What is the punishment for those involved in defiling heritage monuments?
This year, amendments were made to the 1958 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, according which the fine for defiling monuments was raised from Rs 5,000 to Rs 1 lakh, and the jail term was extended from three months to two years.
Also, now there is a fine of Rs 1 lakh and/or three years of imprisonment for any government official found complicit in the defiling of a heritage structure.