We need a comprehensive conservation policy -min
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country. ASI, presently under the Ministry of Culture was established in 1861 to initiate legal provision to protect the historical structures all over India.
ASI is one of the most neglected government agencies in India suffering from perpetual funds shortage and under staffing. As a result, many of its projects are dragged on for years as work in progress. ASI also lacked innovativeness in its approach and found to be inflexible on many occasions. No wonder then the 150+ years old agency has been following the conservation manual of Sir John Marshall, which was published in 1923 all these years and does not have an updated and approved Conservation Policy to meet its requirements of preservation and conservation. Moreover, Also, ASI has been following the Manual of Archaeological Survey of India, published in 1984, and Archaeological Works Code which were more than 30 years old.
Though, some of the policies and guidelines inked nearly a century ago are relevant even today, there is an urgent need to update some of the basic conservation policies keeping in mind the rise in pollution, rapid encroachment and growing urbanization. Guidelines drafted by John Marshall emphasized in-situ conservation, that is, preserving the monument the way it is. In 2013, ASI had prepared a new conservation policy drafted keeping in view the new developments and technologies for monument preservation. The draft conservation policy is awaiting approval of the culture ministry.
However, ASI cannot be solely responsible for the sorry state of affairs of our heritage conservation. All these years, ASI had been sticking to the original principle of preserving monuments in situ. It should be noted that whenever ASI had attempted at restoration by rebuilding missing or damaged portions of a monument, it had created lot of controversies.
It should be noted that preservation and conservation of ancient monuments is a multi-disciplinary activity which requires support of researchers, technicians, architects and historians. Ideally, the principles guiding the preservation and restoration of ancient buildings should be agreed and be laid down on an international basis, with each country being responsible for applying the plan within the framework of its own culture and traditions. However, it appears that ASI and its parent Ministry are giving least significance to policy formulation, setting standards, monitoring and documentation of conservation works which will endanger monuments in the longer run.