Three heritage sites from Karnataka miss Unesco bus

Officials in blame game over delay in dossier preparation

Three heritage sites from  Karnataka miss Unesco bus
The three heritage sites in Karnataka that could have made it to the final list of the Unesco World Heritage List nominations have missed the bus this year.

Monuments of Srirangapatna Island Town; Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysala (Belur and Halebid); Monuments and Forts of Deccan Sultanate (Bidar, Vijayapura, Kalaburagi), were included in the Unesco’s tentative list on April 15, 2014.

In March, 2015, the state government had announced Rs three crore in its budget for preparation of the nomination dossiers for all three, so that they could be added to the final list by the Centre in 2016.

However, politics and blame game in the state Heritage and Archaeology department have led to delays and impediments, it is said. As a result, the three sites will not be part of the final list during this year's Unesco meet in Istanbul in July. The amount of Rs 3 crore has not been utilised and has lapsed, sources in the department said.

There are also charges that the department is making attempts to forego the tender process (for dossier preparation) in a bid to favour certain agencies.

Pinning the blame on his predecessor for the delay in initiating the tender process, Heritage Commissioner C G Betsurmath said that he was hopeful of pushing for the inclusion of the three sites in this year's final list. He had written to the Kannada and Culture department, seeking exemption under the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement Act (KTPP), so that the process can be expedited, he added.

“There has been an inordinate delay as the previous commissioner (R Gopal) failed to initiate the tender process. I took over in January, but since I also hold charge of Mysuru City Corporation, I have not been able to focus on this. I have sought an exemption under the KTPP Act, so that we can get the dossier prepared at the earliest. I will take personal interest and push for this year’s participation.”

He maintained that the allocation of Rs 3 crore has not lapsed. The department has zeroed in on two agencies for dossier preparation - Indian Heritage Cities Network (IHCN) and the Unesco Chair for Culture, Habitat and Sustainable Development at Srishti Institute of Art. “If objections are raised, the tender process will be initiated,” he said.

However, both K S Raykar, executive director, IHCN, and Jyoti Hosagrahar who heads the Unesco Chair at Srishti said that the dossier preparation will take at least a year. The dossiers should have been sent to the Centre in September and to Unesco by January-end.

When contacted, Gopal refuted charges against him. “When I was holding charge between September 2015 and January 2016, I wasn’t given any financial powers. We couldn't even pay staff salaries, let alone run other activities of the department. Though I initiated the tender process, I could not get approvals for the same.” He wondered why tenders were not called for during Betsurmath's stint between the months of April and September 2015.

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