14 antiquities stolen from centrally protected sites in six years
Responding to the questions in Lok Sabha, Union Culture and Tourism minister G Kishan Reddy, however, said that adequate security had been made to prevent such incidents.
NEW DELHI: Amidst efforts being made by the Centre government to retrieve artefacts or antiquities, which were smuggled out of the country, the Union Culture and Tourism minister G Kishan Reddy on Monday informed the parliament that 14 antique articles were reportedly stolen from the centrally protected monuments in the last six years since 2015.
Responding to the questions in Lok Sabha, the minister, however, said that adequate security had been made to prevent such incidents.
"Private security guards, CCTVs cameras and also multitasking staff (MTS) deployed in monuments to ensure protection," he said.
Vandalism and thefts have always been a serious threat to heritage sites across states for the Archeological Survey of India, which is the custodian of more than 3,600 properties. Over the years, hoards of cultural objects have been stolen and taken out of the country illegally. Several of them are in private collections or in museums abroad. In recent years, the Government has expedited repatriation of stolen antiquities and is in touch with the governments in foreign countries to identify India’s cultural heritage there. It also has a special task force (STF) comprising the officials of ministries of external affairs and culture to facilitate the process.
In September, 157 stolen antiquities including idols were returned by the US authority. Most of them are statues made of metal, stone, and terracotta. The first batch of returned articles -- 63 objects-- reached Delhi last month.
In October, an 18th-century idol of Goddess Annapurna was brought back. The deity was stolen and taken out of the country around 100 years ago from Varanasi. It has been placed at Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
An official of the ASI said that vandalism and stealing are generally reported from an open site.
"It has been observed that often locals -- people living in the immediate vicinity -- are involved. Though security guards are being provided at monuments or protected sites, sometimes it is not easy to supervise a building or site spreading over a large land parcel. As and when such an incident is reported, a police complaint is lodged," said an official.
According to the culture ministry, since 1976, 55 idols have been returned to India. Nearly 75 per cent of them were retrieved during the tenure of BJP government at the Centre from 2014 to 2021.
Out of the 55 antiquities, 42 were returned after 2014.
The ASI officials further added that remaining antiquities from US were supposed to reach Delhi by end of this month but given the scenario--Omicron scare--, arrival might be delayed.