Conservation of archaeological sites, including those announced in the recent State budget, is likely to be affected with a group of aggrieved candidates protesting their non-selection to vacant posts in the State archaeology department.

The aspirants have threatened to move court to stall the appointment of 16 others who will join work on a temporary basis on June 1.

As many as 32 posts in the department, including those of 14 curators, ten archaeological officers, five epigraphists and a pre-historic epigraphist and archaeologist have been vacant for years now.

Archaeological experts fear the threat by the non-selected candidates will further delay conservation works that need to be undertaken on a war footing in several of the 85 protected monuments in the State.

Further, the delay in filling up the vacancies will delay heritage projects including new excavations announced in the recent budget.

Some of the projects that have been scheduled for 2013-14 include excavation in Srirangam — the assembly constituency of the Chief Minister — in Tiruchi, at a cost of Rs. 2 lakh, conservation of a Swasthik well in Lalgudi in Tiruchi at a cost of Rs. 25 lakh and conservation of Manora memorial pillar at Sarabendrarajapattinam in Pattukottai of Thanjavur at a cost of Rs. 12 lakh.

“By June this year, only four senior archaeologists will be available in the department for all its activities including conservation and administration, across the State, as the rest of them would retire by then. Threats by the disgruntled archaeologists will only further paralyse the department,” said a government official.

Three years ago, a group of aspirants filed a case with the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court against their non-selection when the State archaeology department attempted to fill 32 vacant posts. A judgement is awaited in the case.

“It is unfair to appoint new recruits when there is a related case pending in the court,” said an aspirant, who declined to be named.

As a stop-gap measure till the regular candidates are appointed, the State government issued an order in March this year, and ordered the commissioner of archaeology to fill up 16 posts in the department on a temporary contract basis with a consolidated pay of Rs. 15,000 per month.

Accordingly, around 100 applicants across the State applied. After personal interviews with the candidates on May 15, the department finalised a list of candidates who will joining work on June 1.

Two site museum curators will be appointed in Karur and a curator each at site museums in Poondi (Tiruvallur), Gangaikondacholapuram (Perambalur), Coimbatore, Tirukkoilur (Villupuram), Dharmapuri and Tranquebar (Nagapattinam). Further, the positions of archaeological officers in five district offices, including Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Nagerkoil and Chidambaram, will be filled.

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