Who is to blame for apathy towards ASI monuments?

In 2010, the Queen of Thailand visited Delhi and went to see the Asokan Edict – an important record of the Mauryan emperor Asoka (273-36 BC).

It is engraved in Prakrit on a rock face near Bahapur village in south Delhi.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials say areas around this monument of national importance got a facelift then.

But if you go there now, you will find a garbage dump at the entry gate – and the waste dumped there looks ancient as well.

Who is to blame for the apathy towards ASI-protected  monuments — is it the general public or civic agencies like the municipal corporations and the Public Works Department?

The Delhi ASI chief says it’s as much responsibility of the citizens as that of the agencies.
“People living in the vicinity of a heritage site should feel proud.

They must try to keep the surroundings clean,” says Vasant Kumar Swarankar, chief superintending archaeologist.

“Rather they just keep putting the blame on the civic agencies when actually they are the ones who litter and misuse the heritage site,” he adds.

In July 2013, the Ministry of Culture had called a meeting of  the ASI and civic agencies like the three corporations, PWD and Delhi Police to discuss the protection of monuments. But nothing has happened so far.

While the tall claims of the ASI of preserving the historical monuments fall flat, the municipal corporations say they don’t get requests to shift dumping yards which lie adjacent to the entry gates of such structures.

“We can shift the garbage dumps but we should get the request for doing so,” says South Corporation spokesperson Mukesh Yadav. “We try to clean the garbage dumps twice a day.”

Resident Welfare Associations can play a huge role in keeping such structures garbage-free.

“RWAs can help people understand the importance of keeping our heritage intact. We also spread awareness among people living in the localities situated near the historic structures not to litter and keep the surroundings clean,” Yadav says.

Take Masjid Moth, a mosque in south Delhi.

Masjid Moth, meaning Lentil Mosque, was developed by the Lodi Dynasty in the fourth city of the medieval Delhi Sultanate.

A board fixed outside says the monument has been declared to be of “national importance” under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958.

And anyone who destroys, defaces or misuses it will be punished with up to three-month imprisonment, or fined up to Rs 5,000.

But in reality, no effort is being made to check the damage done to the mosque. It is now completely enclosed within the modern locality of South Extension Part-II and Uday Park, comprising residential and commercial establishments.

There is little feeling of ‘history’ about. 

A parking lot has come up next to one wall of the monument.

There is a huge garbage dump outside the structure. “People can easily get inside the monument after the gate is closed as there are no iron grills attached to big window-like spaces on the structure.

They litter and misuse the heritage site,” says a local resident.

The Central government had declared that no construction activity can take place in a 100-metre zone around protected monuments.

“There is encroachment right at the gate of the monument. And nobody seems to be bothered,” adds the resident.

Some houses in the locality around the mosque even share the monument’s wall.

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