New Delhi, Dec 3: Expressing concern over the onslaughts -- both man-made and natural -- on the country's priceless cultural properties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said conservation should not be an elitist affair and appealed to the civil society and citizens to actively participate in the protection of heritage and monuments.
''We have been conscious of the need to preserve, protect and promote our cultural heritage, here in India. However, we have not always succeeded in doing so,'' Dr Singh said, while addressing the International Conference of National Trusts here.
He said India's cultural properties had been exposed to various threats over the centuries. Conquerors, explorers, colonisers, vandals and thieves had added their bit to the vagaries of nature and the passage of time, he pointed out.
The Prime Minister said there are provisions in the Constitution that chart out measures for the preservation and conservation of the country's heritage.
In this connection, he referred to a legal framework and institutional arrangements in the form of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the provincial Archaeology Departments.
''But we need to look beyond the government. We need civil society organisations and citizens to actively participate in the protection of our heritage and monuments,'' he said.
Pointing out that the main theme of this conference was ''Heritage and Development'', Dr Singh said there was a very clear and positive correlation between the preservation of heritage and the level of development of a country.
''We do see that developed countries have been able to generate the resources required for protection and preservation of monuments.
However, one must not draw a simplistic correlation between the two,'' he added.
He also disagreed with the idea that lack of resources alone was a major handicap in efforts to preserve cultural artefacts.
''Resources are undoubtedly required. But what is more important is the mindset - a value system and a culture - that respects the past and wishes to learn from it. Unless we respect our inheritance, unless we are prepared to learn from it, we will not invest in its preservation.''