Fund crunch is the major problem for the ASI ( Archaeological Survey of India) to protect monuments!!

The ASI - Archaeological Survey of India  is  annually  allotting funds to take care of  174 Nationally Protected monuments and  33  state protected monuments.  These  include ancient   mosques, baolis, havelis, walls, gateways, forts, gardens, etc.,  around Delhi and are  being protected under Delhi Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 2004. In the capital city of Delhi there are many neglected monuments  slowly dying  because of isolation, neglect and lack of interest. They neither carry cultural nor economic values.  Across India there are 1000s of monuments facing slow  degradation  due to  poor interest,  lack of cultural value and most importantly their location far from towns.. Their slow destruction is further aggravated by vagaries of weather.  Many of them stand  abandoned in the wreckage slowly becoming structurally weak. Primarily they have no  protection   in the form of a strong tall  fence around them.   According to the ASI   the conserved and restored monuments are categorized under ''Protected monuments''.  What about the fate of unprotected and unrecognized monuments?   Leaving them in a dilapidated state is  a  criminal act and such old structures should be preserved for the posterity so that   the next generation of people  would appreciate the continuity in history of that region. We can not leave a hiatus between the present  era  and the past one.

The ASI  armed with certain regulations under the Ministry of Culture is taking care of  monuments across India and  has  24 Circles for the maintenance, upkeep, up gradation of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance. For example the Delhi Circle is responsible for maintenance and preservation of 174 monuments in their jurisdiction. The primary problem is each ASI Circle is receiving inadequate funds  from the Central Government for the annual upkeep of the monuments. 

Are the  centrally protected monuments  in respective states get adequate funds for renovation, conservation, etc?. The ASI -Archaeological Survey of India. takes the  responsibility  carrying out  periodic repairs, and check pretty  old structures  whether structurally they are  strong or need urgent repairs, etc. 

Mahabalipuram monuments, near

Mahabalipuram monuments.


Managing thousands of monuments of great antiquity  by the ASI is a tough job and needs lots of funds, besides adequate manpower.   Though  ASI yearly gets certain amount of funds from the Central government to maintain them,  it is not good enough to carry out the needed repair work.  Many well-known monuments yield good revenue by way of ticket collection, etc., but the rest  get less revenue and in some cases it is almost nil.   In 2018 the famous Mamallapuram monuments (near Chennai)  of Tamil Nadu received  a revenue of 6.5 crore that went to the coffers of the ASI. An article published in September  2018 in the TOI reported that the Tamil Nadu monument got a raw deal Rs. 5 crore to maintain  413 heritage structures in that state in that year.  Can you imagine just Rs. 5 crore to maintain as many as 413 monuments spread across Tamil Nadu. 

According to details furnished by the Union ministry of culture  funds allocated to Kartataka state is about 22 crores. There  are 513  centrally protected monuments in that state being managed by three circles - Bangaluru, Hampi, etc. In the case of Andhra state the Amaravati circle got Rs.6.5 crore  to take care of 129 protected monuments. Likewise to maintain  28 monuments in the state of Kerala, Thrissur circle got Rs.3.5 crore. With respect to Hyderabad circle under Telengana state the fund allocation from the center for annual maintenance of 8  structures  is Rs.3.5 crore.

The ASI officials are of the view the disproportionate fund allocation  has very much affected the conservation and restoration work in Tamil Nadu and they need at least Rs. 10 crore on an average  to maintain the monuments. It does not include special conservation work that might cost a bit more.   ''But given the contribution from TN, by way of ticket collection, the allocation is less, officials say.

The ASI officials  point out their difficulties on account of this disparity of fund allocation that is not in tune with the number of monuments under one circle. In case of conservation work of a structure, it has to be completed  within the given time. and if they run out  of money, they have to wait for some time to get funds to finish the work. In  Tamil Nadu there are only 7 ticketed monuments and the revenue generated through ticket collection  can not be used for  conservation work of the same monument.  So they depend on the allocated annual budget from the center for annual maintenance work which is far insufficient to cover all old structures.

It appears the ASI is facing funds crunch  and it  reflects on the vast number of monuments. Consequently they are pushed to a state where they just carry out the basic repair work and can not go above that.  In the case of Tamil Nadu ASI needs Rs. 7.7.5 crore on an average in the past few years. Rs 5 crore  annual allocation for the fiscal year 2018 -19  means each monument will get roughly Rs.12 lakhs annually toward maintenance work. 

Mahabalipuram near Chennai.

In Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry there  are 420 monuments besides 2 UNESCO recognized heritage sites. under Chennai ASI Circle.  The ASI is under-staffed  with  a small group 130 officials  and  inadequate annual  budget for maintenance. This poor manpower will impact the unprotected monuments that may be defaced, damaged, encroached upon, etc. Burdened with various tasks, the ASI officials pay little attention to monuments  south of the Cauvery. Because of understaff, encroachments near the heritage sites, building activities (within 100 meters from the monument)  go unchecked.  Considering the size of  Chennai Circle, it has to be bifurcated to give better administration and attention to countless monuments. Though 67 employees have been added in the recent past, bifurcation  of the circle is not on the anvil in the future.  ASI  staffers are given additional responsibility of head counting 100000 prized metal idols in 37000 temples to put a break on idol thefts in Tamil  Nadu, etc. Quite surprising is  two staffs are given responsibility of  registering the idols within a given time.  How can they cover 37000 plus Hindu temples  and verify the authenticity of antique idols? It is a time-consuming  and pressure cooker job.  

Invariably non-ticketed monuments do nor receive as much attention as the ticketed ones. Certain  structures like Jain  monument at Azgarmalai need urgent protection. The crux of the problem is many non-ticketed monuments have neither barricade  nor some kind of jerry-rigged fence to prevent the entry of trespassers and hobos. Many monuments have become an eyesore because of graffiti, inscriptions, disfigurement, destruction and  vandalism; some are tuned into   garbage dumps. Surely, some kind of protection will prevent such damages. Adequate protection to the unprotected monuments  will make the  job of  ASI easier. In the case of protected monuments ASI must keep an eye on the  mushrooming  building activities  near them.  It is imperative that ASI should turn their attention to such unprotected monuments and see to it  they can not be accessed by unwanted people.  They must be protected from further deterioration. to unprotected monuments and prevent their gradual death over a period of time..
The following are  some of the unprotected monuments in Tamil Nadu:

Cave temple? Thiruvannamalai, TN

Jayankondam, TN Buddha's stone image

Buddha's stone images, Vikramangalam, Ariyalur, TN

ASI spokesman D N Dimri  is of the opinion that funds were not a constraint for protection of monuments. “We  will provide additional funds if the respective circle  seeks more allocation for conservation''.

''The ASI needs to reach out to municipal councils in towns, village panchayats, elsewhere, to get them involved in preserving some of this. And you have to think of education—there isn’t a school anywhere where you don’t have monuments in the surrounding area. If you can actually integrate those localities and their histories into what you teach in schools, there will be a greater sense of that, well, this is something that needs to be preserved; it belongs to us. I think the state has failed there.''

                                                                                       ..............  Nayanjot Lahiri 

In these modern times due to urbanization, these monuments have become natural enemies of physical plunder in the midst of modern cement structures. These monuments gradually lose their significance in the budding wretchedness of urbanization and additionally neglect by the concerned departments. They lose their architectural significance disconnecting people from their history. 

According to   Advocate Shubham Borkar Senior Legal Consultant at Vohra and Vohra and Pranay Bhattacharya,   ''Protection and preservation can not only allow us to save our cultural value adding to economic growth due to tourism but also create an embodiment of vibrant vicinity. A serious and focused development plan and programme of these monuments may develop a closer engagement with our dying history.''