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Much more must be done to prevent monuments of history from vanishing

Rapid urbanisation, and the increasing demand for space, allows neglected monuments to become spaces into which settlements can easily encroach. However, given that the tourism potential of such monuments – if maintained and marketed well – is immense, the monetary benefits of an initial investment in historical sites could yield enough returns to be able to afford to sustain the maintenance itself.

editorials Updated: Jul 25, 2017 16:31 IST
Hindustan Times
ASI,Archaeological Survey of India,Lok Sabha
The minister of state for culture and tourism, Mahesh Sharma responding to a question raised in the Lok Sabha regarding the preservation and upkeep of monuments under the ASI, revealed that 24 monuments of historical importance are found to have ceased to exist in various parts of the country.(PTI)

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the agency responsible for the preservation and upkeep of the monuments that are important to (in the ASI’s own words) the “cultural heritage of the nation”. It is, therefore, a serious lapse on the part of the organisation when 24 monuments of historical importance are found to have ceased to exist in various parts of the country. The information came to light when the minister of state for culture and tourism, Mahesh Sharma was responding to an unstarred question raised in the Lok Sabha regarding the preservation and upkeep of monuments under the ASI, and the steps taken to keep such monuments free from encroachment.

Rapid urbanisation, and the increasing demand for space, allows neglected monuments to become spaces into which settlements can easily encroach. In his reply, the minister touched upon the issue of encroachments and listed the measures his ministry has taken to minimise this. He said that Superintending Archaeologists of the ASI have the authority to issue show cause notices against encroachers, and they are also vested with the powers of an Estate Officer to enable them to issue eviction notices to encroachers. Evidently, these powers are not being used adequately or effectively. Some of the obvious problems could be those of funding and implementation. Given that there are thousands of monuments under the care of the ASI, spread across the length and breadth of the country, proper budget allocations, and proper implementation of the plans are certainly a mammoth task.

However, given that the tourism potential of such monuments – if maintained and marketed well – is immense, the monetary benefits of an initial investment in historical sites could yield enough returns to be able to sustain the maintenance itself. Monuments such as the guns of Emperor Sher Shah in Tinsukia in Assam would be an attraction, not just for tourists, but for historians and scholars studying the period or the person. Imagine an experience of visiting this historical site, buttressed with some authentic historical information, presented in order to engage both the casual visitor and the academic. It could have been a museum of great historical and tourism import. But as things stand, the site has been lost, perhaps forever.

In a country seemingly obsessed with the grandeur of its past; we are doing quite a shoddy job of preserving the remains of our glorious history.

First Published: Jul 25, 2017 16:31 IST