National Monuments Commission constituted

The news item reported by PIB is indicative of the type of stand the Government is likely to take in the affidavit to be submitted to the Supreme Court. There is every likelihood that the ASI will stick to its stand earlier stated in the withdrawn affidavit that the Rama Setu (which the ASI recognizes only as Adam’s Bridge) does NOT qualify to be a monument of national importance under the 1958 Act. This will be in clear defiance of the Madras High Court judgement of 19 June 2007 which in 11 pages summarised the key evidences of archaeological importance of Rama Setu. If delaying tactics are sought to be adopted and the Govt. asks for the stay to be vacated, it will be a travesty of justice.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and of course, protection of dharma.


Culture Ministry proposes constitution of National Heritage Site Commission

15:11 IST Dec. 31, 2007 New Delhi

The 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.

Setu affidavit fiasco takes Ministry off guard

Monday, December 31, 2007 10:55 [IST]

New Delhi: The Culture Ministry hogged the limelight in 2007 — thanks to the fiasco over the Ram Setu affidavit which made the Archaeological Survey of India a Ravana in the eyes of the Opposition.

The controversial affidavit filed in the Supreme Court almost cost the country’s Culture Minister Ambika Soni her job after an uproar over the Ministry s contention that there was no proof — historical or scientific — about the existence of Lord Ram or a character in Ramayana. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had filed the affidavit in the apex court in September.

Denying that the Ram Setu or the Adams Bridge is a man-made structure, it said Ramacharitmanas by Tulsidas cannot be taken as a historical record to prove the existence of the character or occurrence of events depicted in it. Though the shipping link project was a prestige issue for the DMK and the Congress-led government recognised that the controversy has muddled the waters.

Now ships coming to the peninsula have to circumnavigate Sri Lanka. When completed, the project will shorten the journey by 785 km cutting down travel time by nearly 30 hours.

The affidavit was in response to three petitions transferred from the Madras High Court to the apex court, challenging the government’s decision to construct the Sethusamudram canal by dredging a portion of the Ram Setu.


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