India: Buddhist sites' poor upkeep irks Intach

TNN, Mar 15, 2014

VISAKHAPATNAM, India -- Members of Intach in the city have locked horns with the state archaeology department over poor maintenance of internationally renowned Buddhist sites at Thotlakonda and Bavikonda on the Vizag-Bhimilli route.

While the tourism department continues with its "development" projects on the Buddhist sites, members of the Intach are mulling serious legal action for their utter neglect over the years. They hold the state archaeology and tourism departments responsible for the poor upkeep of the historical places.

Rani Sarma, member of Visakhapatnam Intach, said she had written a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi way back in 2009. "Prime Minister is the in-charge of cultural affairs. The state archaeological department has confessed that neither they have the expertise nor the personnel to follow the rules laid down by the ASI. For this reason, I requested the ASI to take over the sites from the state archaeology department," she pointed out.

She said following her letter, the Centre had sent a superintending officer from Hyderabad circle to study Thotlakonda and Bavikonda sites. The official felt that these sites could be taken over by the ASI from the state archaeology as they are more than 2,300 years old.

Since these sites are minting money for the state archaeology and tourism departments, the state government is not willing to hand them over to the ASI for the upkeep.

Intach members alleged that a month ago 'sculptural freezes' were put up at Thotlakonda and Bavikonda. "When I contacted the state archaeology department, they told me that it was done at the behest of the tourists. How can tourists call the shots on such a crucial issue," she said.

In the case of Bavikonda, some members of Intach alleged that a portion of the site was handed over to a housing project. Tourism officials however maintained that no rules had been violated. But Intach members are planning to bring Intach officials from Delhi into the scene, and file a legal suit against the state archaeology department. They alleged that in the name of tourism, archaeological sites of great value are being mauled.