Very low expenditure on excavation, other shortcomings: CAG report on monuments, sites

  • | Monday | 8th August, 2022

New Delhi, Aug 8 (PTI) The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has flagged shortcomings in financial control mechanism in ticketing at ASI sites, gaps in documentation of monuments and antiquities in the country and a very low expenditure on excavation and exploration activities by the central heritage body. A CAG report on preservation and conservation of monuments and antiquities that was tabled in Parliament on Monday also pointed out shortcomings in conservation works at monuments and management of heritage gardens; and absence of public amenities viz., public toilet, drinking water, space for vehicle parking, ramp, guide, security etc., during a physical inspection of selected monuments. The CAG conducted a performance audit of "Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiquities" during November 2020 to March 2021 to verify the actions taken on the areas of concern reported in the CAG"s Report No.18 of 2013 and to examine the extent of action taken on the 25 specific recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the audit body said in a statement. The units covered during the audit included, Ministry of Culture, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), National Monument Authority, National Culture Fund, National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities and six National-level Museums. Seven States viz., Delhi, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal were selected for examining the monuments, sites and offices of ASI viz., Circles, Branch offices, Institute of Archaeology, site-museums, monuments and excavation sites, it said. "ASI had no strategy or road-map (long term/medium term) to fulfill its mandate.The conservation activities were being undertaken on ad-hoc/annual basis.Central Advisory Board on Archaeology (CABA) conceptualised as apex body to advise ASI on matters relating to archaeology was inactive after March 2018," the CAG said in the statement.The audit body also said that the National Monument Authority was constituted as a statutory body (in 2011) for providing no-objection certificates for undertaking construction activities in the prohibited/regulated area of the monuments. The basic objective was implementation of the statutory provisions through preparation of Heritage Bye-Laws (HBL) and site-plans for each monument. "However, out of 3,693 centrally-protected monuments, HBL for only 31 monuments have been notified while finalisation of HBL for 210 monuments were at different stages viz. notification, consultation, etc," it added. The performance audit report also flagged a number of other shortcomings and inadequacies. The Culture Ministry had intimated the PAC regarding its decision to increase the budget on exploration or excavation activities to five per cent of the total budget. "Despite the assurance given by the Ministry, ASI"s expenditure on excavation and exploration activities was still less than one per cent," it said. Also, in view of recommendation of the PAC, "the ASI had revised its ticket and other charges for monuments and had included more monuments under the ticketed category. However, there were shortcomings in reconciliation and financial control mechanism," the statement said. The CAG also said that National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities was launched by the Government (in 2007) to prepare a national database of all monuments and antiquities in the country in five years. Its period was extended for another five- years (2012-17) and later merged with ASI. "Out of four lakh plus heritage structures and 58 lakh plus antiquities, only 1.84 lakh monuments and 16.83 lakh antiquities have been documented so far," it said. Further, recommendations of the PAC on notification of rules and conservation activities under National Conservation Policy, notification of Archaeological Excavation Policy, updation of Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, modification in Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act "regarding system for recording footfall have not been carried out," the audit body observed. The PAC had asked the "Ministry/ASI to expedite the restructuring process of ASI and make effort in filling the current vacancies in human resources," it said. "However, overall vacancy position of ASI remained static at 29 per cent since earlier audit. At management levels and in important conservation branches of ASI, the position had further deteriorated," it added. The CAG also observed that the utilisation towards the objectives of NCF (National Culture Fund) was less than 14 per cent (Rs 10.25 crore), which "indicates absence of NCF’s coordination with ASI". Also, discrepancies in the list of centrally-protected monuments and issues related with de-notification of missing monuments (as reported earlier) were still existing despite assurance that efforts would be made for their rectification, the CAG has pointed, adding at selected national-level museums and site museums under ASI, concerns related to antiquity management were there. Also it was noted that "ASI had no action plan based on its exploration and excavation policy. ASI did not have a centralised information/monitoring system for displaying excavation proposals and their status. Writing of excavation reports was pending for more than 60 years," the statement said. "The action taken by the Ministry/ASI on the recommendations made by PAC (Reports No.39 of 2016 and No.118 of 2018) was quite inadequate," it added. PTI KND RCJ RCJ

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