Priceless relics and art objects of the Department of Archaeology and Museums are exposed to great risk for want of proper security.

Often, a lone security guard is present to take care of important monuments that have rare and precious objet d’art. For instance, the Bhagwan Mahaveer Government Museum in Kadapa has just one sentinel and the Baudha Archaeological Museum in Guntur, two security guards. Both museums are storehouses of ancient stone structures, inscriptions and pre-historic artefacts. A similar story prevails in museums elsewhere in the State.

For the 620 sites and the 26 archaeological museums in the State, the Department has a mere 120 security personnel. However, round-the-clock security requires a minimum of 650 security guards.

Even after the burglary at Shamsheer Kota in Golconda last December – when thousands of iron balls used for firing canons were stolen – security continues to be lax.

Only the Qutb Shahi Tombs have 12 and State Archaeological Museum 10 security guards while other museums have just one to two security persons, admit officials.

It is the paucity of funds that is hampering the recruitment of guards.

Over the years, a number of employees, including the regular watch and ward staff, have retired but the government has not gone in for hiring.

“We are now operating at 50 per cent strength,” says K.S.B. Keshav, Deputy Director, Archaeology and Museums.

The Department, in fact, now owes a huge sum to agency that looks after security at these sites. Sometime ago, the agency had withdrawn security at all monuments, protesting non-payment of salaries. The Department gets a paltry grant of Rs. 49 lakh under contractual services head which is highly insufficient. The third quarter grant of Rs. 12.25 lakh, due in October, is yet to come.

Letters addressed to the government for recruitment of more security personnel have elicited no response. Officials are pinning hopes on the 13 Finance Commission grants for a bail out.

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