Save our heritage sites for future generations
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I am deeply anguished by the proposed dilution in The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958.
The Act currently covers 3686 monuments and archaeological sites of extreme importance which represent the glorious and unique culture of Indian civilization across many centuries. Since 1992 (in accordance with a notification issued by the Government on 16.6.1992), an area of 100 meters around all protected monuments has been declared a “prohibited area” where no construction of any kind is allowed. Further in 2010 this provision was made in the Act itself.
The custodians of these protected monuments, the Archaeological Survey of India has consistently defended the need for having a minimum distance of 100 meters around protected monuments as a strictly “prohibited area”.
The decision of the Government to designate a 100-meter prohibited perimeter around every monument has been upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
A sudden change in this stance is inexplicable and unjustifiable.
The current Government in its desire to push development at any cost – social, environmental or cultural – has proposed to dilute the Ancient Monuments Act itself by allowing “public works” within the prohibited area.
It must be kept in mind that any construction, whether for a public project or private purpose, will pose the exact same risk to a monument. Allowing an exception for “public works” will open a Pandora’s box, and it will be all but impossible for the Archaeological Survey of India to ensure that such works will not pose a threat to the monument. “Public works” are more often than not very large infrastructure projects; allowing these in the immediate vicinity of a protected monument will defeat the very purpose of the AMASR Act and will be a violation of Article 49 of the Constitution of India. It is possible to plan “public works” so that they do not need to violate this rule. The Delhi Metro has managed to do this even in Delhi, which has the largest number of such protected monuments.
As a Government that is committed to celebrating and enhancing India’s proud cultural history and promoting tourism so that people, both Indians and from the world over, can experience the treasures we have, we believe that the dilution of the AMASR Act is a retrograde step. We strongly urge you to reconsider this decision lest we lose our invaluable and irreplaceable heritage.
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