The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) has suggested that the government should come up with substantive criteria and a detailed procedure for declaring monuments to be of national importance.
In a report titled 'Monuments of National Importance - Urgent Need for Rationalisation', the EAC-PM pointed out that expenditure on the conservation and maintenance of monuments of national importance is inadequate.
"Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should come up with substantive criteria and a detailed procedure for declaring monuments to be of national importance.
"It also should publish a book of notifications with detailed information about the provenance of all Monuments of National Importance (MNI)," the report said.
India currently has 3,695 MNI that are under the protection of ASI. The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act), 1958, (amended in 2010) provides for the declaration and conservation of ancient and historical monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance.
The report prepared by EAC-PM member Sanjeev Sanyal has also recommended that the proceeds from these monuments should vest with the implementing bodies.
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As per the report, a large number of the present list of MNI were identified as such before 1947 under colonial-era laws.
No attempts were made to comprehensively review the list after independence, it added.
EAC-PM also recommended that minor monuments and antiquities protected as monuments should be denotified as MNI and monuments with local importance should be transferred to respective states for protection.
"Allocation of funds for the protection of MNI should be increased," the report said, adding that at the same time, revenue streams such as tickets, events, fees and other sources should be leveraged more proactively.
The EAC-PM is of the view that an effort should be made to restore geographical balance in the list of MNI.
"Along with rationalising the existing list, other monuments should be added to the list based on well-defined criteria and procedures," it said.
According to the report, around 75 British cemeteries/graves are considered as 'monuments of national importance'.
"Also, various monuments declared as MNI are of local importance and do not necessarily have national significance per se," the report said, adding that 24 monuments of national importance are untraceable.
The report pointed out that over 60 per cent of MNI are located in just 5 states - Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
While the city of Delhi alone has 173 MNI, states like Telangana(8), Bihar (70), and Odisha (80) have disproportionately fewer MNI, it noted.
As per the report, the government had allocated Rs 428 crore for the upkeep and protection of 3,695 monuments, which is approximately Rs 11 lakh per MNI.
"This is too little for a culturally rich and civilisational state like India. Therefore, there is an urgent need to exponentially increase the allocation of funds for the protection and upkeep of monuments," the EAC-PM said.
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