Context:

  • In a significant move which could facilitate infrastructure projects within prohibited areas around protected monuments, the government on 18th July, 2017, introduced a bill in Lok Sabha seeking to allow the Centre to take up projects in such zones.

Introduction:

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the introduction of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in the Parliament.
  • The bill states that amendments have been proposed in the legislation to the 1958 Act that prohibits any public work or project essential to the public or other constructions in areas around protected monuments.
  • To make way for certain constructions limited strictly to public works and projects essential to public within the prohibited area, the following amendments have been approved:
  1. Insertion of a new definition of “public works” in section 2 of the Act.
  2. Amendment to section 20A of the Act so as to allow any Department or Office of the Central Government to carry out public works in the prohibited area after obtaining permission from the Central Government.
  3. Insertion of a new clause (ea) to section 20-I of the principal Act.

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites Remains Act, 1958 (as amended in the year 2010):

  • The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites Remains Act, 1958 (as amended in the year 2010) prohibits grant of any permission for new construction within the prohibited area of a centrally protected monument/ site and ‘to preserve, conserve, protect and maintain all ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains declared of national importance, and their surrounding areas up to a distance of 300 metres (or more as may be specified in certain cases) in all directions.’
  • A “prohibited area” means land within the 100-metre radius of a protected monument. Currently, construction is not allowed in such areas except for repair and renovation works.

Purpose of current amendment:

  • The amendment will make way for certain constructions limited strictly to public works and projects essential to public within the prohibited area and benefit the public at large.
  • The Centre was of the opinion that the need was felt to amend the law to allow construction works related to infrastructure which is financed and carried out by any department or office of the central government for public purposes and is necessary for the safety or security of the public at large.

Present threat:

  • Only three instances are considered enough by the Ministry of Culture to demand the withdrawal of the constraint imposed by the AMASR Act on any new construction within 100 metres of a protected monument.
  • The ministry speaks not on behalf of our cultural heritage, as it should, but pleads the cause of roadways, railway tracks,
  • and unknown private landed interests.
  • Public works undertaken by the Central Government are usually extremely large projects – railway lines, ports, airports, highways etc. The construction of which is bound to have an enormous impact on some of the more fragile monuments. For example:
  • In May 2015, a crane positioned within the Walled City in Jaipur to facilitate the ongoing underground construction work for the Jaipur Metro came crashing down on the 250-year-old Naval Kishore temple and the Udai Singh Haveli, causing damage to both structures.
  • The direct amendment of law by the government without any consideration of such carefully planned and sustainable alternatives raises certain questions on the implication of modernization over the ancient heritage.

Other current initiative:

A need is being felt to have an institutionalized and centralized Scheme for concerted efforts in the direction of professionally enhancing awareness and interest in Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), safeguarding, promoting and propagating it systematically.

  • Thus,the Ministry of Culture has formulated a Scheme titled “Scheme for Safeguarding the Intangible Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India”.
  • The scheme comes with the objective of reinvigorating and revitalizing various institutions, groups, individuals, identified non-MOC institutions, non-government organisations, researchers and scholars so that they may engage in activities/ projects for strengthening, protecting, preserving and promoting the rich intangible cultural heritage of India.
  • The Scheme will cover all recognized domains of ICH such as oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage, Performing arts, Social practices, rituals and festive events, Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, traditional craftsmanship etc.

Conclusion:

  • Many of these monuments have stood the test of time,
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