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Source: The post is based on the article “Monuments of National Importance: The Urgent Need for Rationalization” published in TOI on 27th January 2023
What is the News?
The Economic Advisory Council (EAC) to the Prime Minister has released a report titled ‘Monuments of National Importance: The Urgent Need for Rationalization’.
What are Monuments of National Importance?
What are the key findings and recommendations of the report?
Too many Monuments of National Importance(MNI): India currently has 3,693 monuments of national importance(MNI) and their protection and upkeep is the responsibility of the Archaeological Survey of India(ASI).
However, a large number of MNI seem not to have national importance or historical or cultural significance.The report estimates that around a quarter of the current list of 3,695 MNI may not have ‘national importance’ per se.
For instance, around 75 graves and cemeteries of British officers and soldiers that have neither architectural significance nor historical or cultural importance are on the list.
Missing Monuments: As many as 24 “untraceable” monuments are still being considered as monuments of national importance(MNI).
– The report cited a 2013 audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which declared 92 monuments as “missing” after a first-of-its-kind physical verification exercise undertaken after Independence.
Inadequate Funds to upkeep monuments: The funds allocated for the upkeep and maintenance of many of these centrally protected monuments are inadequate and geographically skewed.
Additionally, there is imbalance in the state-wise distribution of funds.In 2019-20, Delhi, which has 173 MNI, received Rs 18.5 crore; on the other hand, Uttar Pradesh with 745 monuments was allocated just Rs 15.95 crore.
This imbalance is further compounded by the fact that the revenue collected at MNI through ticketing, photography, filming etc does not go to the ASI or the Ministry of Culture.
No definition of monument of national importance: The major problem plaguing the identification and preservation of monuments of national importance lies in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act,1958.
Neither the Act nor the National Policy for Conservation (2014) have defined what the term ‘national importance’ means.
The Act also does not have a substantive process/ criteria prescribed for identifying a monument as a monument of national importance.In absence of well-defined principles, the selection of monuments of national importance seems to be arbitrary.
What are the recommendations given by the report?
Firstly, the report underlined the urgent need to rationalise India’s list of monuments of national importance and recommended that the ASI should evolve substantive criteria and a detailed procedure for declaring monuments to be of national importance.
Secondly, ASI should publish a book of notifications with detailed information about each MNI’s provenance, hand over protection and upkeep of monuments of local importance to respective states and denotify to the extent possible, all standalone antiquities like cannons and statues.
Thirdly, allocation of funds for the preservation of MNI should be increased and ASI should retain the proceeds generated from revenue streams like tickets, events, fees and other sources.