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“Missing” 50 centrally protected monuments: Government

According to a Ministry of Culture petition to Parliament, as many as fifty of India’s 3,693 officially protected monuments are missing.

“…it is a matter of grave concern that several monuments of national importance under the protection of Archaeological Survey of India (Ministry of Culture) have become untraceable over the years due to rapid urbanisation, (being) submerged by reservoirs (and) dams, difficulties in tracing in remote locations (and) dense forests, non-availability of their proper location, etc.,” according to the ministry’s submissions made on December 8 to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. According to the report, the Committee heard from Culture Secretary Govind Mohan, ASI Director-General V Vidyavathi, and other senior agency officials on May 18, 2022.

The missing monuments include eleven in Uttar Pradesh, two in Delhi, and two in Haryana. The list also included Assam, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand monuments.

According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), fourteen of these monuments have been destroyed by rapid urbanisation, reservoirs or dams drown twelve, and the whereabouts of the remaining twenty-four are unknown.

“Many of these cases involve inscriptions and tablets without a specific location. It may be difficult to locate them since they may have been relocated or destroyed, officials said The Sunday Express. They also stated that the majority of centrally protected sites were discovered in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and that in the decades following independence, “discovering new monuments took precedence over protecting them.”

“Also, the priorities of successive governments in a newly independent nation were health and development, while heritage was neglected,” officials told The Sunday Express, adding that “even now, they are battling an acute manpower shortage to physically man all the large and small monuments that may fall under a particular region.”

The Comptroller and Auditor General labelled 92 monuments “missing” in 2013 after conducting the first physical verification exercise of its sort since independence.

The Parliamentary Committee noted that “42 of the 92 monuments declared missing by the CAG have been identified thanks to the efforts of the ASI,” but of the remaining 50 monuments, “14 are affected by rapid urbanisation, reservoirs/dams submerge 12, and the location of the remaining 24 monuments is still unknown.”

The panel also criticised the ministry’s distinction between monuments lost to urbanisation/reservoirs and 24 monuments that are untraceable, calling it “an academic distinction as monuments lost to urbanisation/reservoirs are similarly irretrievable.”

Importantly, the CAG audit included a joint physical inspection with ASI of just 1,655 of the 3,678 monuments and sites nationally that are centrally protected. From this sample of 1,655 monuments, 24 have been reported as untraceable.


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