The Archaeological Survey of India will ‘delist’ some ‘lost’ monuments

GS Paper-I

News Excerpt:  

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to delist 18 “centrally protected monuments” because it has assessed that they do not have national importance. 

What are Centrally protected Monuments?

  • The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act) 1958 regulates the preservation of monuments and archaeological sites of national importance.
  • AMASR Act protects monuments and sites that are more than 100 years old, including temples, cemeteries, inscriptions, tombs, forts, palaces, step-wells, rock-cut caves, and even objects like cannons and mile pillars (“kos minars”) that may be of historical significance.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Culture, functions under this Act.

 What exactly does the “delisting” of monuments mean?

  • The "delisting" of monuments refers to the removal of certain specific monuments and archaeological sites from the list of protected sites maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). 
    • When a monument is delisted, it no longer falls under the purview of the ASI for conservation, protection, and maintenance.
  • Under the relevant provisions of The Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904 and The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (AMASR Act), monuments and archaeological sites declared to be of national importance are protected and maintained by the ASI.
  • Delisting effectively means that the monument will no longer receive special attention or protection from the ASI. 
    • Construction-related activities that were previously restricted around the protected site can now be carried out in a regular manner.
  • The delisting process involves a decision by the Central Government, which issues a gazette notification declaring that the monument has ceased to be of national importance. 
    • This notification provides a two-month window for the public to submit objections or suggestions regarding the delisting.
  • Overall, delisting marks a shift in the status of the monument, removing it from the list of protected sites and allowing for changes in land use and development activities in the surrounding area.

What does it mean when the ASI says a monument is “untraceable”?

  • It means that the physical location of the monument cannot be determined or verified


  • Loss of physical landmarks: Over time, due to natural disasters, urbanization, encroachments, or neglect, the physical markers or features that once identified the monument may have disappeared.
  • Lack of historical records: Sometimes, there might be inadequate historical documentation or records available to pinpoint the exact location of the monument.
  • No surviving public memory: If there is no local or public knowledge about the existence or location of the monument, it becomes challenging to trace it.
  • Destruction or alteration: In some cases, the monument might have been destroyed or significantly altered, making it difficult to recognize or trace its original form.
  • Inaccurate records: Historical records or documentation about the monument's location might be inaccurate or incomplete, leading to difficulties in tracing it.

How many historical monuments have been lost in this way?

  • The Ministry of Culture submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, that 50 of India’s 3,693 centrally protected monuments were missing. 
    • Fourteen of these monuments had been lost to rapid urbanization, 12 were submerged by reservoirs/ dams, and the remaining 24 were untraceable, 
  • The Committee was informed that security guards were posted at only 248 of the 3,693 protected monuments. 
    • In its report on ‘Issues relating to Untraceable Monuments and Protection of Monuments in India’, the Committee “noted with dismay that out of the total requirement of 7,000 personnel for the protection of monuments, the government could provide only 2,578 security personnel at 248 locations due to budgetary constraints.

Was 2022 the first time that the disappearance of these monuments was noticed?

    • According to ASI: No comprehensive physical survey of all monuments had ever been conducted after Independence. 
      • However, in 2013, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had said that at least 92 centrally protected monuments across the country had gone missing.
    • According to the CAG report:  ASI did not have reliable information on the exact number of monuments under its protection.
      •  It recommended that periodic inspection of each protected monument be carried out by a suitably ranked officer.
        •  The Culture ministry accepted the proposal.
    • The Parliamentary panel noted that “out of the 92 monuments declared as missing by the CAG, 42 have been identified due to efforts made by the ASI”. 
  • Of the remaining 50, 26 were accounted for, as mentioned earlier, while the other 24 remained untraceable.
  • “Such monuments which could not be traced on ground for a considerable time because of multiple factors, despite the strenuous efforts of ASI through its field offices, were referred as Untraceable monuments.”
  • Eleven of these monuments are in Uttar Pradesh, two each in Delhi and Haryana, and others in states like Assam, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. 

About ASI

  • Archaeological Survey of India or the ASI serves as one of the best sources of Indian History. 
  • It is an agency in the Government of India belonging to the Department of Culture. 
  • The organization is responsible for archaeological studies and the preservation of cultural monuments in India. Archaeological Survey of India is responsible to preserve and protect the monuments which are of National and International Importance. 

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