The Archealogical Survey of India (ASI) is in the limelight for the excavation it has controversially launched at the ruins of the fort of Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh, where a sadhu had prophesied the existence of a treasure of gold. A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India tabled recently in Parliament, had spoken of poor conservation and management taking their toll on many of the country's archaeological treasures, including World Heritage sites. Is the ASI getting its priorities right?

The sites:
Taj Mahal

A view of the Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.

Unauthorised construction
33 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Long term plan
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 72.71 crores; revenue earned: Rs 84.9 crores.

hampi

A beautiful stone chariot at Hampi, Karnataka

Encroachment
2 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Site plan, notification
- Long term plan
- Lockers
- Dfferently-abled:
  lack of facilities
- CCTV
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 14.87 crores; revenue earned: Rs 6.26 crores.

Agra fort

A view of Agra Fort in Uttar Pradesh; a huge tourist attraction.

Unauthorised construction
7 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Long term plan
- Inspection and maintenance
- CCTV
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 46.3 crores; revenue earned: Rs 47.94 crores.

Ellora caves

A view of the Ellora Caves near Aurangabad, Maharashtra.

Deficiencies relate to
- Long term plan
- Lockers
- CCTV
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 4.67 crores; revenue earned: Rs 7.15 crores.

Buddhist monument, Sanchi

The great Buddhist stupa at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

Unauthorised construction
49 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Long term plan
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 73 lakhs; revenue earned: Rs 1.85 crores.

Rock shelters of Bhimbetka

A view of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh, noted for its rock paintings.

Encroachment
1 case

Deficiencies relate to
- Long term plan
- Lockers
- Guide service
- Security equipment
- CCTV
- Differently-abled:
  lack of facilities

Spending on conservation
Rs 29 lakhs (not a revenue-earning site).

Sun temple

An iconic stone carving at the Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha.

Deficiencies relate to
- Guide service
- Lockers
- CCTV

Spending on conservation
Rs 2.82 crores; revenue earned: Rs 9.91 crores.

Mahabalipuram

A stone chariot at Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu.

Unauthorised construction
39 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Site plan, notification
- Long term plan
- Lockers
- Security equipment
- CCTV
- Guide service
- Dfferently-abled:
  lack of facilities

Spending on conservation
Rs 2.5 crores; revenue earned: Rs 12.94 crores.

Great living Chola temples

A view of the Sri Brahadiswarar temple at Gangaikondacholapuram in Tamil Nadu.

Unauthorised construction
64 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Site plan, notification
- Long term plan
- Security equipment
- CCTV
- Guide service
- Dfferently-abled:
  lack of facilities

Spending on conservation
Rs 3.19 crores (not a revenue-earning site)

Elephanta caves

The Elephanta caves in Maharashtra are quite a toursit draw.

Deficiencies relate to
- Long term plan
- Lockers
- Security equipment
- CCTV
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 59 lakhs; revenue earned: Rs 4.05 crores.

Fathepur Sikri

A view of Dargah of Hazrat Sheikh Salim Chishti at Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh.

Unauthorised construction
194 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Long term plan
- Lockers
- CCTV
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 53.94 crores; revenue earned: Rs 24.87 crores.

Ajanta caves

A view of the Ajanta caves in Maharashtra.

Deficiencies relate to
- Lockers
- CCTV
- Guide service

Spending on conservation:
Rs 7.19 crores; revenue earned: Rs 4.97 crores.

Khajuraho group of monuments

An stone structure at Kahjuraho, Madhya Pradesh.

Unauthorised construction
628 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Long term plan
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 3.19 crores; revenue earned: Rs 9.43 crores.

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

The Jami Masjid at Champaner, Gujarat.

Encroachment
1 case

Unauthorised construction
107 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Security equipment
- CCTV
- Lockers
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 3.48 crores; revenue earned: Rs 48 lakhs.

Group of monuments at Pattdakal

Villagers at the historic temple at Pattadakal, Karnataka.

Deficiencies relate to
- Inspection, maintenance
- Security equipment
- Lockers
- CCTV
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 78 lakhs; revenue earned: Rs 1.83 crores.

Goa churches

The Basilica of Bom Jesus at Goa.

Deficiencies relate to
- Drinking water
- Inspection and maintenance
- Security equipment
- Lockers
- CCTV
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 3.71 crores (not a revenue-earning site).

Red Fort

The Red Fort in Delhi.

Encroachment
2 cases

Unauthorised construction
13 cases

Deficiencies relate to
- Long term plan
- Inspection, maintenance
- CCTV
- Guide service
- Dfferently-abled:
  lack of facilities

Spending on conservation
Rs 14.51 crores; revenue earned: Rs 25.59 crores.

Qutb Minar

One of the world's tallest minarets is part of the Qutb Minar, Delhi.

Encroachment
1 case

Deficiencies relate to
- Site plan, notification
- Long term plan
- Inspection, maintenance
- CCTV
- Guide service

Spending on conservation
Rs 5.72 crores; revenue earned: Rs 47.73 crores.

Humanyun's tomb

At the tomb-gardens of Isa Khan Niyazi and Bu Halima — a part of Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi.

Deficiencies relate to
- Site plan, notification
- Long term plan
- Inspection and maintenance
- CCTV
- Guide service
- Dfferently-abled:
  lack of facilities

Spending on conservation
Rs 2.77 crores; revenue earned: Rs 30.13 crores.

Issues facing different World Heritage sites under the Archaeological Survey of India, as revealed by a CAG report. The figures pertain to the period 2007-08 to 2011-12.
Created by: TR
Data: CAG report

The Archaeological Survey of India, in the news for launching an excavation at the ruins of the fort of Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh in Uttar Pradesh where a sadhu has prophesied the existence of a large gold treasure trove, had not exactly come out with flying colours in a recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that took stock of the conservation and maintenance of various monuments, including World Heritage sites.

Poor conservation and maintenance, encroachments, inadequate facilities for tourists and unauthorised constructions were taking the lustre away from many of the 19 World Heritage sites managed by the ASI, the CAG report had concluded. The report had covered not only the world heritage sites but also the entire range of activities undertaken by the ASI.

In the part relating to the world heritage sites, the report had said that even the Taj Mahal was not being taken care of properly. "Conservation and preservation works inside the monument" were unsatisfactory. " The plaster was fading at the main entrance to the monument. There were instances of missing inlay designs and seepage. Even the gardens were not maintained properly."

There was an encroachment within the premises of the Taj Mahal near Khan-i-Alam’s Bagh. The ASI had not taken action to have it removed. And only one of 24 unauthorised constructions around the Taj had been demolished. Even in parts of the main mausoleum stones were missing, white floral designs had turned black and cracks were seen in them.

The Taj's outer boundary walls were not in good shape. "We also noticed cracks in the outer walls, broken stones fixed in the wall, missing designs, use of cement in the wall, seepage, fixing of plastic pipes, and broken jalis."

All this even as the monument yielded a revenue of nearly Rs 85 crores as against an expenditure of Rs 73 crores.

The report also said that the manner in which the process of shortlisting and selecting new sites for elevation to World Heritage status left much to be desired.

The CAG report had also highlighted that:

- Encroachments were found at Red Fort, Qutb Minar, Bhimbetka, Hampi and Champaner

- Unauthorised constructions were aplenty at some of these sites: 628 instances at Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, 194 at Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh and 107 at Champaner in Gujarat.

- Out of 19 World Heritage sites under the ASI, nine were partly closed to the public. These included Taj Mahal Agra, Red Fort Delhi and Qutb Minar in Delhi.

- No guides were available at 14 of these sites, including Ajanta, Ellora, Khajuraho and Red Fort.

- Security equipments like hand held metal detectors, scanners etc were not available at 7 of these sites. No CCTV had been installed in as many as 16 of 19 sites.

- Facilities for differently-abled visitors were not available at 6 of these sites.

"The grant of World Heritage status did not translate into better availability of facilities, funding and staff for these sites. For all practical purposes of conservation, security and maintenance, the ASI did not differentiate between other sites and World Heritage Sites," the report said.

One recent happening was the completion of restoration work at Humayun's Tomb. At function to mark the occasion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had referred to the need for the adoption of a conservation approach that included local communities.

The revenue yield from the world heritage sites totalled Rs 320.03 crores between 2007-12. The expediture was 243.96 crores. At some sites the expenditure was more than the revenue yield and at others it was much less. That said, the current excavation drive at the ruins of the fort of Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh brings one basic question to the fore: have the authorities got their priorities right?