NEW DELHI: Things are not well at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The premier organisation for archaeological research and protection of cultural heritage has been forced to outsource work to “inexperienced private contractors” in the absence of trained ASI staff. This has led to a snail’s pace of excavation, chemical treatment of monuments, conservation, etc.“The work is purely scientific, technical and research-based. It demands proper training and experience in archaeology. How can they carry out conservation work with hired labourers?” said an ASI official.Another official added, “Excavation work has been delayed at many places. Conservation and chemical treatment of heritage structures are also
Many ASI officials have been protesting against the apathy of the Ministry of Culture—headed by Mahesh Sharma—towards the organisation. “We feel orphaned. There’s nobody to take stock of the situation here. Shortage of staff is a major issue. Works such as ticketing, construction and conservation have been given to private contractors, who don’t have any experience of archaeology,” said an official.
Dr Sujeet Nayan, president of the Association of Serving Archaeologists, said, “We have submitted our list of demands to senior authorities. We’ll intensify our protest if our demands are not met.”
He said ASI’s restructuring has been pending for many years. Twenty-three out of 45 posts of superintending archaeologists are vacant across the country.Additional Director General (Administration) Rakesh Singh Lal said he had a meeting with ASI officials and the matter is being looked into. “There are some issues which have dynamic process and it takes time,” he said.
Major excavation reports—including of Dholavira (Gujarat) and Kalibanga (Rajasthan)—are pending. The Dholavira site contains ruins of an ancient Harappan city. Kalibangan was a major provincial capital of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
Encroachers are destroying conservation and protection of historic treasures. Aihor Badami temples of the Chalukyas in Karnataka have been encroached upon.
Most monuments are left to the mercy of private security guards, who are not trained to take care of heritage sites