Delisting of Monuments by Archaeological Survey of India


11:40 AM

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • What is Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)?
  • What does the delisting of monuments mean?
  • What are Untraceable monuments?

Why in news?

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to delist 18 centrally protected monuments because it has assessed that they do not have national importance.

These 18 monuments are part of an earlier list of monuments that the ASI had said were untraceable.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

  • It was established in the year 1861 by Alexander Cunningham.
  • After independence, it was established as a statutory body under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958(AMASR Act).
  • ASI is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country.
  • Its activities include carrying out surveys of antiquarian remains, exploration and excavation of archaeological sites, conservation and maintenance of protected monuments etc.
  • Concerned Ministry: Ministry of Culture.

What does the delisting of monuments mean?

  • Background
    • Among the monuments that face delisting now are:
      • a medieval highway milestone recorded as Kos Minar No.13 at Mujessar village in Haryana,
      • Barakhamba Cemetery in Delhi,
      • Gunner Burkill’s tomb in Jhansi district,
      • a cemetery at Gaughat in Lucknow, and
      • Telia Nala Buddhist ruins in Varanasi.
    • The precise location of these monuments, or their current physical state, is not known.
  • Delisting of monuments – meaning
    • Delisting of a monument effectively means it will no longer be conserved, protected, and maintained by the ASI.
    • Under the AMASR Act, any kind of construction-related activity is not allowed around a protected site.
    • Once the monument is delisted, activities related to construction and urbanisation in the area can be carried out in a regular manner.
  • List of protected monuments - status
    • The list of protected monuments can grow longer or shorter with new listings and delistings.
    • ASI currently has 3,693 monuments under its purview, which will fall to 3,675 once the current delisting exercise is completed in the next few weeks.
    • This is the first such large-scale delisting exercise in several decades.
  • Can Monuments be Dropped from the Protected List?
    • List of Protected Monuments is regulated by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules, 1959.
    • The Act protects monuments and sites that are more than 100 years old, including temples, cemeteries, inscriptions, tombs, forts, palaces, step-wells, rock-cut canes, and even objects like cannons and mile pillars that may be of historical significance.
    • The government can remove certain monuments from the protected list by notification in the Official Gazette.
      • Through a notification in the Official Gazette, the govt can declare that the ancient and historical monument or archaeological site and remains, as the case may be, has ceased to be of national importance for the purposes of the AMASR Act (Section 35 of AMASR Act).

Untraceable monuments

  • Meaning
    • AMASR Act protects monuments and sites that are more than 100 years old.
    • However, over the decades, some, especially the smaller or lesser-known ones, have been lost to activities such as urbanisation, encroachments, the construction of dams and reservoirs, or sheer neglect.
    • In some cases, there is no surviving public memory of these monuments, making it difficult to ascertain their physical location.
  • How many historical monuments have been lost in this way?
    • In December 2022, the Ministry of Culture submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, that 50 of India’s 3,693 centrally protected monuments were missing.
    • Fourteen of these monuments had been lost to rapid urbanisation, 12 were submerged by reservoirs/ dams, and the remaining 24 were untraceable.
      • The Committee found that the government could only give 2,578 security guards to 248 historical sites out of the needed 7,000 guards due to budgetary constraints.
    • In 2013, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had said that at least 92 centrally protected monuments across the country had gone missing.

Q1) What is Comptroller and Auditor General of India?

CAG of India, or also the “Guardian of the Public Purse”, is vested with the responsibility of inspecting and auditing all the expenditures of both the Central and the State Governments as well as of those organisations or bodies which the government significantly funds.

Q2) Who was Alexander Cunningham?

Sir Alexander Cunningham (1814-1893) was a British army officer and archaeologist who is often called the father of Indian archaeology. He was the first director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and is credited with putting Harappa on the archaeological map.