CAG report on abysmal state of heritage conservation

Source: The post is based on the article “CAG report on abysmal state of heritage conservation published in the Indian Express on 1st September 2022.

Syllabus: GS 1 – Salient aspects of Art Forms, literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Relevance: About challenges in heritage conservation.

News: Recently, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) declared Anang Tal as a monument of national importance.

About Anang Tal and Anangpal II
Read here: Anang Tal lake declared monument of national importance

The CAG’s performance audit on Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiquities revealed Anang Tal as being “in the last stage of disappearance”.

About the CAG reports on the state of India’s heritage conservation

After 2007, there has been no internal audit of the ASI conducted by the ministry. So, the CAG reports are the most comprehensive public document on the institutional malaise that dogs the conservation of our monuments and antiquities.

These documents range from those relating to museums in 2011 to CAG findings on the ASI in 2013. 

What are the key highlights of CAG reports on heritage conservation?

The report notes that a) There is no national policy on archaeological exploration, excavation and antiquities, b) Some 58 lakh plus antiquities all over India, but there is no database or inventory in its possession, c) The ASI budget for exploration and excavations is less than 1%.  But the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) showed its intention to raise the allocation to 5% of the total budget, d) The budget of the ASI in 2021-2022 has been reduced by more than Rs 200 crore, e) The ASI, in many cases, has been working in violation of the provisions of the Monuments (AMASR) Act. At Humayun’s tomb, a CAG inspection revealed commercial construction being undertaken in the prohibited area by an “agency other than the ASI”, f) The poor state of conservation at ASI-protected sites and the lack of follow-up in many places also highlighted by the report. For instance, Buddhist stupa site of Kanaganahalli in Karnataka precious carved panels were still lying scattered in the open. The cement beds created at the open shed for placing artefacts had cracked.

Read more: Monuments and antiquities are part of our heritage and culture, they should be protected adequately
What are the other challenges persisting in heritage conservation?

a) There is no synergy between the different agencies involved in heritage conservation, b) The National Culture Fund, established in November 1996, to bring in individuals and corporate groups to fund conservation, has utilised only 14% of its funds because of the lack of coordination with the ASI.

c) National Monuments Authority, a statutory body for implementing heritage by-laws and site plans for each monument, has only finalised and notified 31 monuments. This is only a fraction of the 3,693 monuments on the list of Centrally Protected Monuments.

This snail’s pace is the consequence of the Centre’s proactively plan to reduce the prohibited and regulatory area around monuments and its plan to amend the act.

Read more: What are the steps taken at global level to conserve Geo heritage sites?

Modern keepers of ancient material have to act quick to ensure proper heritage conservation of Indian history.

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