The Indian Culture and Tourism Minister Smt. Ambika Soni has said that the Government is providing alternative commercial hubs to encroachers for necessary livelihood so that the exterior ambience of monuments remains presentable. Addressing the 33rd meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology here today she said already alternative commercial hubs have been provided at Mahabalipuram, Agra and Bodhgaya. She said encroachment is a major problem the Government is facing in maintaining and improving the ambience of the monuments. Vandalisation against monuments, law & order situation in the areas where monuments are situated are major concerns for the Government and efforts are needed to be made by the ASI, the state and the local Governments to work together to ensure that cultural heritage of the country is well-preserved and visitor friendly.
Smt. Soni said the country is at risk of loosing a number of archaeological sites due to rapid urbanization and developmental work. The Government has therefore decided to create within five years a national register to built heritage and antiquities of India. A National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities has been constituted for this purpose. She said the aim of the mission is to document the monuments and antiquities spread across India and to have a GIS based data based both at the regional as well as national level which can be accessed by the common public and scholars alike. She said her ministry has proposed constitution of National Heritage Site Commission to the Cabinet recently for the identification of heritage structures. She said the Government has also encouraged the participation of the corporate sector in the preservation and conservation of cultural heritage through the National Cultural Fund. Contributions to this fund are 100% tax free, she added.
Smt. Ambika Soni said the year 2007 saw an impressive growth of tourism sector in the country and as per estimates the final figure of foreign tourist arrivals in the country is likely to touch 5 million with a foreign exchange earning of over 10 billion US dollars. She said we have to strive hard to keep pace with growing tourism and try to maintain a balance between conservation and development without destruction.
The Union Culture Secretary Sh. Abhijit Sengupta in his address said the ASI has recently signed a MoU with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur to collaborate in the application of sciences in archaeology. This MoU has enabled ASI to depute its officers to undergo training in selected fields like , “Plane Surveying and GPS”, “Geographical Information System (GIS)” and “Archaeo-materials”. He said this venture will built the capacity of ASI Archaeologists as well as facilitate core research in many areas of archaeology.
The Director General of ASI Smt. Anshu Vaish said her organization has under its protection 366 monuments and sites which are administered through 24 circles spread throughout India. She said ASI also generates revenue through ticketing of the centrally protected monuments and during the financial year 2006-07 it has contributed a sum of Rs. 63.04 crores to the Government exchequer, which almost a 9% increase over the previous year.