Centre eyes monuments for building

TMC MP fears commercial benefit at the cost of sites

The Narendra Modi government is considering a proposal to allow the creation of “infrastructure” near heritage sites, prompting the Opposition to allege the Centre could be planning to offer commercial benefits to select businessmen at the cost of the monuments.

Culture minister G. Kishan Reddy shared the information in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday in response to a question by Trinamul Congress MP Jawhar Sircar who wanted to know whether the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, the law pertaining to monuments of national importance, was likely to be amended.

“The government has taken a decision to examine the legal issues affecting construction-related activities around centrally protected monuments and sites in order to allow for infrastructure while at the same time preserving the rich heritage of the country,” Reddy said.

Sircar did not elaborate what kind of infrastructure the government had in mind. He suspects that the infrastructure the government proposes to build would be of commercial nature aimed at providing benefits to select businessmen to the detriment of the monuments.

TMC MP Jawhar Sircar (File Photo)

He said no construction activity was allowed within a 100-metre periphery of temples protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act. 

Construction and repair works are allowed in the regulated area between 100 metres and 300 metres of the site, with the rider that no new structure is taller than the existing structures in this area.

The permission of the National Monument Authority is needed to carry out repairs of old structures in the 100-metre prohibited area.

“Because of restrictions on the use of heavy machines, which may harm the monuments, and the stipulations about the height of the new structures, commercial projects like hotels, apartments, malls and market complexes cannot come up (in the vicinity of heritage sites),” Sircar said.

“My suspicion is that the government is planning to allow mega construction of commercial complexes around the sites within the regulated and prohibited areas. Such projects would benefit select builders and businessmen enormously. But the monuments will suffer heavily in terms of aesthetics and strength of structures,” he added.

Sircar said the government had not explained what kind of “infrastructure” could be allowed because it wanted to give the go-ahead to commercial projects. The central government has notified over 3,000 sites as protected monuments.

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