Over 300 Centrally-protected monuments and sites, including World Heritage Sites, across the country are “under encroachment”, according to the government.
Responding to a question by Nationalist Congress Party member Vandana Chavan in the Rajya Sabha, Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Culture and Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel admitted that Centrally-protected sites and World Heritage Sites had been encroached upon.
Asked whether a study had been done to assess the impact of the illegal constructions or encroachments on the sites, he replied in the negative.
“Although no impact study has been done, proactive steps have been taken by the Archaeological Survey of India under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and Rules, 1959 to keep the historical monuments free from encroachments,” he stated. Of the total 321 encroached-upon monuments and sites that Mr. Patel’s reply listed, the highest number were in Uttar Pradesh (75), followed by Tamil Nadu (74), Karnataka (48), Maharashtra (46), Rajasthan (22), Delhi (11), Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Punjab (seven each), Assam, Bihar and Odisha (six each), Himachal Pradesh (three), Madhya Pradesh (two) and West Bengal (1).
Among the monuments that have encroachments are Purana Qila in Delhi, Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, Sun Temple in Konark in Odisha and Brahma Temple in Pushkar, Rajasthan.
The Minister’s reply stated that superintending archaeologists of the ASI were authorised to issue show cause notices to remove encroachments.
“In order to contain the encroachments and remove them, the superintending archaeologist in charge of the Circles have been vested with the powers of Estate Officers to issue eviction notices/orders to the encroachers under Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971. In addition to the regular watch and ward staff, private security personnel, State police guards and CISF have also been deployed for the safety and security of selected monuments,” the reply said.