Keezhadi excavation to continue for 3 more years

Funds will not be a constraint, assures Union Minister Mahesh Sharma

Updated - April 29, 2017 08:21 am IST

Published - April 29, 2017 12:37 am IST - MADURAI

Union Ministers Mahesh Sharma and Nirmala Sitharaman inspect the excavation site.

Union Ministers Mahesh Sharma and Nirmala Sitharaman inspect the excavation site.

Ending the suspense over continuance of Archaeological Survey of India’s excavation at Keezhadi near here, Union Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma on Friday announced that the third phase would begin in May. “The results [of excavation] have been good and inspiring. They point to the existence of 2nd century BC culture and civilisation. I promise to the people of Tamil Nadu that this will continue. We will ensure that there is no shortage of funds,” Mr. Mahesh Sharma told mediapersons after inspecting the excavation site along with Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman and ASI Director General Rakesh Tewari.

The Minister said that the excavation would go on for three more years and ₹40 lakh had been sanctioned for taking up the third phase. He claimed that Tamil Nadu and Tamil language were close to their heart and they had come to ensure that the excavation continued.

“We also want to assure the people of Tamil Nadu that there will be no shortage of funds. The excavation will be completed within a timeframe,” he said.

‘Site will be showcased’

The DG of ASI gave an assurance that the antiquities from the site would be showcased at the Government Museum in Sivaganga, Madurai and Chennai. While welcoming the State Government’s offer to set up an on-site museum, he said that the ASI would certainly consider all the options.

Mr. Tewari denied the charge that the ASI delayed sanction of funds as the site was in Tamil Nadu and attributed the delay to submission of report.

He said that the Standing Committee of ASI had also pointed to non-submission of report. “Without a report, excavation means destruction,” he said. The ASI did not have any bias, he said and recalled how it published the findings of excavation of 6th century artefacts in Kodumanal and Porunthal of Tamil Nadu earlier.

Answering queries on the transfer of K. Amarnath Ramakrishna, Superintending Archaeologist, Excavation Branch, Bengaluru, who was in charge of Keezhadi, to Guwahati Circle, the Minister said that it was a routine transfer effected with that of 25 others as per the new policy of ASI not to retain a Superintending Archaeologist in a place for more than three years.

Ms. Sitharaman wanted to know how could there be bias when the ASI did not even know what was in store in unexplored areas of Keezhadi. She pointed out that another person from Tamil Nadu, P.S. Sriraman, had been posted in the place of Mr. Amarnath.

Protest over delay, funds

Even as the Ministers were inspecting the site, a group of Makkal Viduthalai Katchi volunteers, led by former MLA Murugavel Rajan, raised slogans against the delay in funding and transfer of Mr. Amarnath.

A free-for-all was about to erupt when BJP members objected to the entry of MVK volunteers into the site and hurled dried parts of coconut trees at them. The police arrested 15 persons in this connection.


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