New Delhi, July 29: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that monitors the mere 79 “protected” monuments in all seven states of the Northeast from just one office in Guwahati, is finally waking up to the need to engage more hands to explore and safeguard historical structures in the region.
In 1983, the East India circle managed the entire Northeast, West Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Sikkim. Later, two separate circles were set up — Calcutta circle to manage West Bengal and Sikkim and Guwahati circle to look after all northeastern states.
The circle headquarters are in Guwahati because most protected monuments are in Assam. While Assam has 55 monuments, Manipur has one, Arunachal Pradesh three, Nagaland four and Tripura and Meghalaya eight each.
The idea doing rounds is to have another circle headquartered either in Tripura or Meghalaya.
Recently, the ASI brought the first monument in Mizoram under protection — the Menhirs of Vangchhia. But the apex body admits that many such monuments still lack monitoring.
The ASI has been ignoring the region despite the fact that it shares borders with Myanmar, Tibet, Bhutan and Bangladesh and was an important arena during World War II.
In other states, however, it has been more proactive. There are three circles in Uttar Pradesh and two in Karnataka.
“It does become difficult to manage things from Guwahati mainly because of the distances involved. In fact, currently, we have only 24 circles and if the areas are to be managed properly, we need at least 35,” said ASI additional director-general B.R. Mani.
The organisation currently is plagued by lack of manpower. “There is certainly a debate inside the organisation to have an additional circle for the Northeast because the area needs more monitoring. But currently we have a huge staff crunch. We will be pursuing it at a later stage,” ASI director-general Gautam Sengupta said.
The organisation has been facing a similar problem with the Aurangabad circle, which is also responsible for monuments in Nagpur, 700km away.
It, however, has been neglecting peripheral areas. For instance, not a single monument is maintained by the ASI either in Andaman and Nicobar Islands or Lakshadweep.