NEW DELHI: Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill 2017 that allows government to take up infrastructure projects within the 100 metre prohibited periphery around protected monuments.
Setting aside opposition to the bill by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and RSP MP NK Premachandran, minister of state for culture Mahesh Sharma said banning construction in the prohibited areas was adversely affecting various public works and developmental projects of the central government. “Moving away from party lines, members have supported the bill,” Sharma said, responding to concerns raised by members during the debate on the Bill.
The bill proposes amendments in the legislation to the 1958 Act that prohibits carrying out any public work or project or other constructions in any prohibited area around protected monuments. The existing law described ‘prohibited area’ as land in the 100-metre radius around a protected monument. At present, construction is not allowed in the prohibited areas except for repair and renovation works.
Raising objections to the amendments to the bill, Tharoor questioned whether the government had done its homework before presenting this bill.
“I find that this kind of very liberal application of the definition ‘public works’ is very worrying. It will affect the safety of the monuments; it will affect the security of the monuments; and it will affect the aesthetics of the monuments,” the Trivandrum MP said.
Tharoor also cited the instance of the Ram Janmabhoomi, where ASI, by digging around the foundations of the Babri Masjid, found the ruined pillars of an old temple. “If you had built a road right past the Babri Masjid, you will have never known this,” he said. BJD MP Prabhas Kumar Singh and Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also objected to a clause that gave the central government a final say in the matter whatever be the report of the National Monuments Authority
The government, on the other hand, said the need was felt to amend the law to allow “construction works related to infrastructure financed and carried out by any department or office of the central government for public purposes which is necessary for the safety or security of the public at large”. Besides, such construction works would be taken up when there is no possibility of any other viable alternative to such construction beyond the limits of the prohibited area.
The bill also sought to have a new definition of “public works” under the Act.
At present, over 3,600 monuments and sites centrally-protected fall under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, which is responsible for their maintenance and upkeep.
Moving the bill for consideration and passage, Sharma said the amendment in the law is needed so as to carry out certain public works, which fall within the prohibited area of 100 meters, in national interest. Sharma also cited the example of the ongoing Kolkata metro project, which, he said, were required to be completed and explained that the new law will allow relaxation only to government works carried out in national interest. The minister also clarified no private work will be allowed in the 100 metre radius of heritage monuments.
Source : timesofindia