The government has approved changes to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958 to allow “public works” near these structures. If Parliament clears these amendments, national monuments will be threatened.
When we think of the iconic monuments in India, images of the Taj Mahal, Ajanta Caves, The Great Stupa at Sanchi and the Sun Temple of Konark, among others, come to mind. But there are thousands of amazing historical treasures in our country. My home city, Pune, has the eighth century rock-cut temple of Pataleshwar, the more “modern” Aga Khan Palace — which blends several architectural styles — and the resting place of Kasturba Gandhi, as well as the Shaniwar Wada, the epicentre of the mighty Maratha empire.
All these are designated as “ancient monuments of national importance” and protected under the AMASR Act. The Archaeological Survey of India is the custodian of these monuments. That these monuments are in trouble is no secret.
Despite its rhetoric about protecting and promoting the ancient culture and civilisation of India, the government has decided to dilute an important piece of legislation that was passed when the UPA held office at the Centre. During the UPA regime, there was a realisation that protecting critically threatened monuments was becoming difficult.