India holds a place of pride in the world not the least for her historical monuments and cultural heritage. But many of our historical monuments beg for attention as their lack of proper upkeep and protection rob them of their heritage value and tourism potential. India has a 5,000-year-old history of civilisation and has unparalleled variety and number of historical relics and remains which are strewn across the length and breadth of the country in the form of rock edicts, cave paintings, stupas, temples, palaces, mosques and manuscripts.
Unfortunately, many of them are lost or are on the verge of losing their existence to the vagaries of nature or human tampering. It is sheer lack of care and restoration measures that have brought them to ruins. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) established by the British is the sole authorised agency in independent India designated for the maintenance and restoration of historical monuments.
The ASI has done a lot towards this direction and most of the monuments of repute that we see today are the fruits of ASI’s hard work in keeping them intact. However, given the length and breadth of the country and the number of old monuments she has, it is an onerous task for one organisation to pay attention to every nook and corner and maintain all of the monuments equally well.
Hence, neglect sets in. ASI has to pick and choose and in the process miss out on many monuments which ideally should be under its care. Also, the ASI’s resources are limited and funds and staff are short, which makes restoration and maintenance work difficult, especially in a country where people are reckless when it comes to keeping the monuments beautiful. Defacing walls, paintings and statues is a national pastime. India has the potential to draw millions of tourists every year though she gets only half of that because of this lack of historical sense and civic discipline on our part.
ASI or any agency for that matter alone cannot do much if people are not cooperative and willing to make their country proud. The government, however, needs to bring more neglected and far-flung monuments under the ambit of its direct care and monitoring and lay down strict rules to ensure the premises of our heritage buildings and sites are kept clean, safe and inviting. No one found guilty of littering or damaging the national properties must be spared strictest action.
The monuments may even be declared as living entities and thus any violation against them can be tired as murder. This can work as a big deterrent for louts and anti-socials who damage and deface the remnants of our proud past. Such action is great disservice the nation. Ill-kept monuments dent the national image and spread a wrong message globally. India has to come out of this rut and show exemplary sincerity in taking care of her monuments.
A society which cannot uphold its cultural lineage can never evolve and prosper into a developed nation. No impediment should that comes in the way of proper upkeep and development of heritage sites must be entertained. There should be a zero-tolerance policy by the government towards any person, group or agency directly or indirectly trying to damage any heritage monument by their disruptive action.