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Sansad TV: Perspective- Safeguarding Cultural Heritage

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Introduction:

A parliamentary panel has recommended setting up a “dedicated cultural heritage squad” for the recovery of stolen antiquities. The department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture said this in a report tabled in both Houses of Parliament. In its “Three Hundred Forty Eighth Report on the subject ‘Heritage Theft – The Illegal Trade in Indian Antiquities and the Challenges of Retrieving and Safeguarding Our Tangible Cultural Heritage’”, the committee suggested that the government could set up a “multi-departmental task force” to speed up the retrieval process. The task force, as recommended by the committee, should include senior officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs for police and investigation, Ministry of External Affairs (for coordination with foreign governments), the Archaeological Survey of India, along with senior scholars and experts.

Threats to Indian Art Heritage:

  • Theft: The incidents of thefts have been observed usually from unprotected monuments, ancient temples. The thefts cases have also been seen in the protected monuments and museums as well. It is due to negligence of security guards in museums, monuments etc.
  • Smuggling: illicit traffic and smuggling in antiquities. Illicit traffic is motivated often by profit and sometimes by the demand for luxuries.
  • Issues with security of museums: Most of the museums are poorly guarded due to shortage of manpower leading to theft of artefacts, fire accidents etc.
  • Lack of public awareness: This leads to poor maintenance, vandalism, spoiling the monuments artefacts. Replacing the structures or building structures close to the monuments leading to
  • Poor Maintenance: The state of the wall paintings in Ajanta caves is continuously getting worse, which can be attributed to humidity as well as to a lack of care.
  • Encroachment of monuments: Another miss from the ministry has been encroachments of monuments. Over 278 centrally protected monuments have been encroached upon or have illegal occupants, as per government data.

Rationale behind safeguarding the art heritage:

  • Evolution of human consciousness is a continuous process: History here serves as a laboratory and the past serves as a demarcation to understand the regional laws and social structures. This understanding helps in our progress towards an ideal society.
  • Tourism potential for art monuments and museums is very high. Tourism generates revenue for the state as well as private artists due to the money-multiplier quality.
  • Infrastructure development takes place in and around the areas. Eg. Hampi despite being a small town has excellent infrastructure.
  • It creates jobs for a lot of people from art industry and tourism industry as well
  • It creates a feeling of oneness and a sense of attachment by enhancing a sense of belonging to a culture or a region.
  • Every historical site has an important story to tell and these stories have inspired many people to strengthen their convictions and commitment to fight injustice and oppression.

Way forward

  • Strengthening Legislations and Initiatives:
    • The Antiquity Act of 1947, Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972 particularly provide for the prevention of smuggling and illegally dealing in antiques.
    • Recent bill to amend The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act which allowed construction within 100m of the protected monuments should be avoided.
    • In 2015, the ministry launched an initiative of e-ticketing services in over 116 monuments under the ASI and launched an initiative to digitise cultural resources.
  • Strengthening institutions:
    • The CAG report on Preservation and Conservation of Monuments and Antiques clearly indicates that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for this purpose needs to be more proactive and vigilant in its efforts and the ministry needs to develop an aggressive strategy for the same
    • Tapping of the Public —Private Partnership models for sustenance of Arts and Crafts.
    • Artistes from the field of architecture, sculpture, painting, handicrafts, puppetry, music, dance, theatre, and literature will be graded by the Centre on the basis of their performance.
  • Cultural awareness:
    • Curriculum modification – Identification and inclusion of heritage as an asset in school, Open departments of Heritage management on the lines of Ahmedabad University
    • Introduction of a compulsory offline and online training for tourism purposes willing to undertake ventures.
    • Greater involvement of universities in schemes promoting arts and culture as well as inclusion of Fine Arts as a subject in universities.
  • Adaptive reuse of heritage sites:
    • Restoring the historical sites in the form of festivals and inducing festivity link perceptions.
    • Recognizing ‘cultural heritage tourism’ as an upcoming industry by building cultural resources with an adaptation of scientific and technological knowledge to local circumstances as well as forming partnerships between local and global bodies.

Conclusion

  • It is the duty of every citizen to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.
  • The art and culture of our nation are a vast continuum, evolving incessantly since time immemorial.
  • Naturally, preservation and conservation of India’s rich cultural heritage and promotion of all forms of art and culture, both tangible and intangible, including monuments and archaeological sites, anthropology and ethnology, folk and tribal arts, literature and handicrafts, performing art of music-dance-drama and visual arts of paintings-sculpture-graphics is essential and assumes a lot of importance.