Today's Paper

'New deal' for archaeologists

NEW DELHI JUNE 26. After a year of spadework, the Union Tourism and Culture Ministry has drawn up the contours of an Indian Archaeological and Heritage Service (IAHS) to ``professionalise'' the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and is hopeful of the proposal getting Cabinet clearance.

A Cabinet approval will result in ending the decade-long ``IAS stranglehold'' over the post of ASI Director-General.

Since the total vacancies would be too small to merit a separate all-India examination like the Indian Economic Service, the IAHS has been envisaged as part of the Central Services.

Selection will be through the Civil Services Examination — conducted annually by the Union Public Service Commission — and the shortlisted candidates will undergo the four-month Foundational Course at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie as all others who make it.

Thereafter, those selected for the IAHS will be put through a 20-month diploma programme at the Institute of Archaeology where in the second year they will have to choose between a host of related subjects including museology, epigraphy, numismatics... And, the ASI will be allowed to draw from the Indian Engineering Service and the Indian Forest Service to meet its requirements in the area of engineering and horticulture.

Jagmohan's steps

According to the Union Tourism & Culture Minister, Jagmohan, ``this is a new deal for professional archaeologists''. Also, he said, it would make the organisation a ``dynamic instrument for preserving the vast cultural assets of India as well as those being excavated now on a large scale; Dholavira in Gujarat being a case in point''.

Upset by the state of affairs in the ASI and the condition of a majority of the monuments under it, Mr. Jagmohan's contention has been that the rot in the institution began at the top since it was headed by a bureaucrat with little understanding of the job at hand.

So eager was he to reorganise the set-up and revert to the earlier provision of having an archaeologist as ASI DG, that at one point there was talk of seeking Cabinet approval for an ad hoc appointment pending the creation of a separate service.

As for those already in the ASI — particularly in the higher ranks — the plan is to adjust them into the new service through the Selection Committee of the UPSC. But a question that many within the ASI have about this bid to professionalise the institution is where the archaeological expertise needed for excavations and interpreting the findings will come from; given that any graduate is eligible to take the examination.

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