The Centre has been advised by a parliamentary panel to include "strong provisions" pertaining to government officials' accountability in the upcoming AMASR Act amendment. This will help to guarantee that timely measures are taken to address the encroachment of centrally protected monuments.
The Culture Ministry's proposed amendment to the AMASR Act should include provisions to "empower the local bodies for the protection of historical monuments" and hold them accountable, according to the report of the department's affiliated Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism, and Culture.
Delivered to both Houses last week, the Three Hundred Sixty-Third Report details the Government's response to the Committee's observations and recommendations in its Three Hundred Twenty-Fourth Report on "Issues relating to Untraceable Monuments and Protection of Monuments in India."
The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMSAR) Act governs the upkeep of the sites under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
More than 3,690 monuments are currently covered by the ASI.
"The Committee takes note of the existing framework and recommends that in the upcoming amendment of the AMASR Act being worked upon by the Ministry, strong provisions may be incorporated for fixing accountability of concerned government officials to ensure that necessary steps are taken timely for tackling encroachment of Centrally Protected Monuments," the report states.
It stated that in terms of combating the invasion of CPMs, the relevant officials should be "liable to be prosecuted in case of gross negligence of their duties".
Additionally, the Committee suggests that in order to effectively stop the issue of encroachment of centrally protected monuments, the Culture Ministry "consider granting similar powers to ASI officials" by looking into the powers granted to District Forest Officers (DFOs) under The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The ministry informed the panel that "amendment in the AMASR Act, 1958 is under consideration" in its response.
The panel further stated that it is "concerned to note that security guards are posted at only 248 CPMs/sites/museums, i.e. less than about 6.7 per 1,000 Centrally Protected Monuments."
The report states, "The Committee notes with dismay that due to budgetary constraints, the Government could provide only 2,578 security personnel at 248 locations out of the total requirement of 7,000 personnel for the protection of monuments."
The parliamentary panel notes that it is the "bounden duty of the Government of the day to protect our cultural heritage sites" and that "budgetary constraints should not be an excuse for not providing security guards to protect our rich cultural heritage".