The state government has decided to inspect the Jogeshwari caves and act against illegal encroachments in eight days.
Minister of Food and Civil Supplies, Anil Deshmukh, spoke on behalf of the government and promised that there will be a site inspection within 8-days followed by action on the encroachers.
Member of Legislative Council (MLC), Subhash Chavan, raised the issue in the Legislative Council on Wednesday saying the oldest Buddhist rock-cut caves (leni in Marathi) are in bad shape and should be declared as a national monument and protected structure.
The Jogeshwari caves, recorded as the earliest Hindu cave temple in India [dating back to 520-550 AD], are being affected by heavy human
settlement and sewage water seeping in. The carvings have been defaced and the caves need urgent attention, Chavan told the House. “ The structure is slowly degenerating due to lack of maintenance,” he said and asked the government what it planned to do about it.
Minister of State for Cultural Affairs, Fauzia Khan, said the caves were under the purview of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and the state government had no role. “ In a letter dated March 15, the ASI informed [the government] that due to local opposition they were not able to do anything there despite the fact that a tender has been sanctioned for the makeover of this area,” Khan added.
Shiv Sena MLC, Neelam Gorhe, argued saying the state was using this as an excuse to shirk responsibility. “Encroachers have made the areas in the caves their home. They have cut rocks and fixed doors at various spots,” Gorhe said. “The state government must take concrete steps against them and keep the history and culture of the place alive.”