Does anyone in the Government feel concerned about conservation of the rich heritage of the State or, it is feared, the same is feigned ostensibly in public statements and the like? Such apprehensions and fears are vindicated by the fact that paltry and inadequate funds are allocated for conservation of State Protected Monuments in all the three regions of the State.
Where does Jammu and Kashmir State stand in position as compared to other states when it is observed that not only are such heritage symbols given reasonably adequate funds for conserving and maintaining them but they are turned into tourist spots, generating revenues which result in further improvement in their maintenance besides creating cluster of small business units around these sites as also giving fillip to ancillary business like transport, hotels, restaurants etc. The state of Rajasthan is a glaring example and we could well emulate their commitment towards their rich heritage symbols and monuments.
If the realm or the defined domain is not jumped in the absolute sense, it could safely be said that the need is that these monuments and heritage sites be treated as full fledged institutions in that well trained personnel having necessary technical knowledge are required to man them and supervise the works on them as preservation in itself is a highly skilled job.
Jammu and Kashmir Ancient Monuments Preservation Act lays down clear cut provisions for such monuments in areas of conservation, restoration and proper maintenance and as such between 1986 and 2013, a total of 51 heritage sites were declared as State Protected Monuments. We feel that only with the backing by legislative measures, the job is half done since reasonable funds were never kept earmarked every year for such monuments and kept at the disposal of the Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museum which is mandated to implement the provisions of this Act.
Hopes for a turnaround both in the approach towards and the mind set in connexion with, conservation of such monuments were pinned in the present coalition dispensation but it is difficult to comprehend if there is any perceptible change in comparison to earlier Governments with the result that not only the already declared monuments and sites suffer but many in the “queue “for many years await inclusion in the list. The number is in no mean any less. It is over 142. When the existing ones are not properly cared for, the fate of the “wait listed” can well be visualized.
A japery it may sound to mention that just Rs.6 crore is the annual budget of the Department of Archives, Archaeology and Museums (DAAM) which they are expected to spend “lavishly” on preservation and conservation of 51 state protected monuments and surprisingly on payment of salaries to its employees and meeting the routine expenditure of the Department as well. Even a magic wand would fail to do justice to any of the three. The result is evident. Even the emergency repairs are not in a position to be attended to in the absence of adequate funds.
Those heritage sites which were recognized as such, as back as in 2012-13, no conservation works could be started on them. A few instances are Chamba Statue at Sanku and Rock Sculpture at Matria Budha at Apathi in Kargil District. Not to speak of increasing the Budgetary allocation, the Government is yet to arrange trained and skilled manpower for restoration and conservation works. The people feel emotionally attached to such heritage sites and monuments and since the same being of historical and cultural importance, it hardly needs any special emphasis to underline its importance and resultantly needless to pinpoint, as to how much was it necessary to nourish them, maintain them, conserve them and restore them to pristine ancient glory.