The ministry of culture has formulated a 14-point museum reform guideline and circulated it to all central museums and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for implementation. It has also come out with a draft policy to plan and regulate the acquisition and valuation of artefacts for all museums in India. This was long overdue. The Performance Audit of Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiquities by CAG found that no benchmarks or standards were followed for acquisition and valuation of artefacts.
The CAG report submitted in 2013 also said that several artefacts have disappeared from the Indian Museum in Kolkata and the authorities maintained no records of priceless artefacts and fake antiquities on display, and that antiquities of national importance were making their way to international auction houses without any government record to show ASI or any agency participating or approving of such sale. The Centre and state governments must formulate a uniform policy for acquisition, authentication and valuation of artefacts preserved in India’s museums and implement it fully to ensure that India’s cultural heritage is not pilfered away.
The 5,000 years of Indian civilisation mean the country is a treasure house of ancient relics for which rich collectors were willing to pay any price. Enterprising art thieves were forever on the prowl, therefore, to inveigle their way into the confidence of the indigent guards and supervisors and entice them to lower their vigil. It is not only necessary to ensure those entrusted with the safe keeping of precious artefacts are known for their honesty, but also to periodically publicise the value of objets d’art so that the public as well as connoisseurs can act as informal watchdogs. If and when a relic is found missing, sleuths will have to be engaged to trace and recover the artefact and punish the thief who can only be viewed as a poacher.