Culture Ministry proposes a National Heritage Site Commission

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New Delhi, Dec 31 (UNI) Stating that the country was at risk of losing a number of archaeological sites due to rapid urbanisation and developmental work, Culture and Tourism Minister Ambika Soni today said her ministry had proposed constitution of a National Heritage Site Commission to the Cabinet recently for the identification of heritage structures.

The Government has also decided to create within five years a national register of the heritage and antiquities of India, Ms Soni said adressing the 33rd meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology here.

A National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities has been constituted with the aim of documenting the monuments and antiquities spread across the country and to have a GIS based data base both at the regional as well as national level which can be accessed by the common public and scholars alike, she said.

The Government has also encouraged the participation of the corporate sector in the preservation and conservation of cultural heritage through the National Cultural Fund. Contributions to this fund are 100 per cent tax free, added Ms Soni.

She said the Government was providing alternative commercial hubs to encroachers for their livelihood so that the exterior ambience of monuments remain presentable. The work had been completed at Agra, Mahabalipuram and Bodh Gaya, she added.

''Encroachment is a major problem the Government is facing in maintaining and improving the ambience of the monuments.

Vandalisation against monuments, law and order situation in the areas where monuments are situated are major concerns for the Government and efforts are needed to be made by the ASI, the state and the local Governments to work together to ensure that cultural heritage of the country is well-preserved and visitor friendly,'' said Ms Soni.

The Minister said the year 2007 saw an impressive growth of tourism sector in the country and as per estimates, the final figure of foreign tourist arrivals in the country was likely to touch five million with a foreign exchange earning of over 10 billion US dollars.

Union Culture Secretary Abhijit Sengupta in his address said the ASI had recently signed a MoU with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur to collaborate in the application of sciences in archaeology.

This MoU had enabled ASI to depute its officers to undergo training in selected fields like Plane Surveying and GPS, Geographical Information System (GIS) and Archaeo-materials. He said this venture will build the capacity of ASI Archaeologists as well as facilitate core research in many areas of archaeology.

Director General of ASI Anshu Vaish said her organisation had under its protection 366 monuments and sites which were administered through 24 circles spread throughout India. She said ASI also generated revenue through ticketing of the centrally protected monuments and during the financial year 2006-07 it had contributed a sum of Rs 63.04 crores to the Government exchequer, which was almost a nine per cent increase over the previous year.

UNI

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