The Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, which is hamstrung by paucity of staff and funds, will take the MGNREGA route for maintenance of protected and unprotected heritage sites and monuments in Karnataka.
Archaeology Department of Karnataka handles 844 monuments and sites while 609 sites are under the ambit of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The proposed initiative will cover the protected and unprotected sites in Karnataka, most of which lack even a fence, so as to prevent encroachment.
A. Devaraju, Commissioner of the Department, said the government has issued a directive to to take up maintenance work and has also appointed nodal officers to coordinate with local PDOs to prepare an action plan. ‘’The MGNREGA has come in handy for taking up bio-fencing. It has both labour and material component besides generating employment for rural people,’’ Mr. Devaraj added.
Sources in the department said that out of 844 monuments, about 250 monuments have a fence and compound wall while the remaining monuments are susceptible to encroachment. In most cases, the extent of area abutting the monuments and that belonging to the Archaeology Department is yet to be determined
The State Archaeology Department has a sanctioned strength of 13 engineers and an annual budget of ₹27 crore of which nearly ₹11 crore goes for staff salary.
Focus on Grade A monuments
With the focus on maintenance of Grade A monuments of historical importance that also attract tourists, a majority of the monuments are neglected. Over the last few years, the department has been earmarking ₹1 crore for fencing of the monuments, but this covers only a handful of sites each year.
A joint circular issued by the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj and Department of Tourism noted that many of the heritage sites are in a state of neglect due to shortage of funds, and even the basic work of weed clearance and fencing have not been undertaken.
The plan is to take up small works, like clearing weeds and installing fence, without disturbing or touching the core area of the protected site.
Restoring water bodies
A few other works proposed under MGNREGA are restoration of wells, or pushkarni, with advice from the Tourism Department and State Archaeology Department without affecting the heritage value of the structure, and development of eco-parks.
While the MGNREGA route can be taken up for maintenance in rural hinterland, monuments in urban limits will be out of the purview of the scheme.
But, Devaraju says more than 90% of the monuments are in rural areas. “The involvement of local bodies will help us demarcate the boundary, or even clear encroachments,” he added.
The Department of Tourism will provide additional funds for creation of amenities like toilets and drinking water, apart from installation of signages or information boards pertaining to the monuments. Besides, the works will be reviewed periodically at the State-level once in three months, according to the government notification.