HYDERABAD: The treasure hunt at the Vidyaranya High School continued on Monday amid decreasing hopes of striking gold. But what puzzled and added a new dimension to this exercise was the pit stop by Tourism and Culture Minister Vatti Vasanth Kumar in the morning. The excavation work began early around 9 a.m and soon, the minister was on the spot giving directions to officials.
He advised the Archeology department to take help from the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) in tracing the elusive jewels, pointing out that it could bring in its technological expertise to make the work easier.
With the excavation likely to take longer than expected, he also directed the officials to ensure that their activities do not disturb the school which reopens tomorrow. The school has a strength of around 1,000 students and the excavation is going on at the far end of its playground. Following the minister’s directives, the Archeology department contacted the NMDC and by afternoon, a team from the corporation arrived on the spot. They had lengthy discussions with the Archeology as well as revenue officials but refused to speak to the media. However, in an informal chat, they did drop enough hints that their equipment would be able to detect a tunnel or staircase made only of metal. Nonetheless, the officials expect the NMDC to chip in with its scanning and tracking equipment.
Though on Sunday, it was said that the excavation would go on even during the night, it did not and the officials clarified that the work would begin at 9 a.m and end by 5 p.m. every day. The workers have so far levelled the ground at the Birla Mandir Hill or Naubat Pahad and it appears they will now manually dig up to reach the tunnel which is said to be underground.
The site has been made off limits for curious passersby and a posse of policemen deployed as a precautionary measure to keep off potential jewel thieves. Currently, Archeology, Revenue and Police department have taken up the responsibility of safety and security of the site.
Watching all this drama from close quarters was P Anuradha Reddy, INTACH, Hyderabad convenor and a descendant of the Wanaparthi Samsthan which owns the property. Speaking to City Express, she said that she had had a talk with D Sitarama Raju, one of the petitioners who approached the Archeology department seeking an excavation at the site. “He claims to have seen the treasure a year ago and that he has come out with a petition now in national interest. Didn’t he realise it was in national interest a year ago?,” she wondered. According to her, Sitarama Raju had visited the school a year ago as a parent and tried his best to find the treasure. “He himself told me that he had used a gas cutter to open a steel Alwyn almirah in the tunnel,” she explained.
Seated beside her at the site was city-based historian Sajjad Shahid. “There is little evidence in history to show that a treasure was hidden underneath Naubat Pahad.
There was no steel Allwyn almirah in Hyderabad prior to 1930s contrary to the claims of the petitioner. If at all there is a treasure, it has to belong to the Wanaparthi Samsthan. Now, why would Wanaparthi rulers hide wealth worth hundreds of crores in Hyderabad instead of Wanaparthi?” he reasoned, pointing out that they were in constant conflict with the Nizams.
Notwithstanding these skeptics, the officials were immersed in their own discussions.