n a first of its kind Performance Audit, the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) has scrutinised the status of heritage preservation and conservation activities of the Government. The CAG report titled ‘Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiquities’ tabled in Parliament last week has highlighted a gloomy picture of heritage management in India.

The supreme auditor has found numerous cases of delays and bad conservation. CAG notes that even in the world heritage sites like the Taj Mahal and Red fort, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) could not ensure proper conservation with unkempt gardens, non functional water channels and incomplete conservation and encroachments at these sites.

Culture Ministry found dozing while monuments go ‘missing’: CAG

This report is critical of the Ministry of Culture implying that “due to absence of proactive approach by the Ministry, ASI was reduced to an organisation lacking both monetary and human resources to carry out its mandate.”

The CAG’s report finds that on numerous occasions the Minister of Culture told Parliament that 35 of its monuments have gone missing. According to the report, when CAG’s team inspected nearly 45 per cent monuments (1655 monuments) and sites they found no less than 92 monuments have gone missing.

“Now, found at fault the Ministry is saying that the figure of 35 was based on a decade old survey. Even for that they could not show anything on record to the auditors,” the report states.

Additionally, the report finds that “no security guards, no CCTV and no baggage checking was found at most of the ASI monuments. Even in the museums, either the CCTV cameras were not there or many of them were found non functional.”  

“No money to preserve heritage, but film shooting comes with subsidised rates at the monuments.”

The Audit report has encouraged efforts to generate revenues through these monuments and museums. At present very few (116 out of 3678) of these protected monuments of ASI are ticketed. The report reveals that revenue realised through sale of tickets in 116 protected monuments ranged from Rs 66.25 crore to Rs 95.64 crore during last five years.  Further, the audit found that more than 75 per cent of the total revenue was coming from only 10 monuments. CAG also says that ASI had no specific criteria or guidelines for categorising a particular protected monument as ‘ticketed’. 

The report also compared the film shooting rates at ASI monuments with other agencies and found the ASI rates extremely low. While a full day shoot at Humayun’s Tomb or world heritage site of Hampi costs a mere Rs.5000 agencies like Railways, DMRC and DAIL were not so generous with their sites. The report found that “Indian Railway charged Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 100,000 per day, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation charged Rs.100,000 per hour and Delhi International Airport Limited charged Rs. 500,000 per four hours for film shooting in their premises.  Even the agencies like CPWD and NDMC charged up to Rs. 50,000 per day for film shootings in their areas.”

“ASI is unable to prevent unauthorised religious activities at the protected Monuments.”

The CAG has also expressed concern over unauthorised activities in protected monuments. While ASI accepted that there are presently 955 monuments for worship and prayers, owing to poor documentation, the ASI did not have the details of monuments where prayers/worships were being held prior to issue of notification.

CAG indicts Ministry of Culture for neglecting museums and monuments

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