The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Historians cold to heritage service

New Delhi, June 27: The Centre’s move to create a separate cadre of professionals for the Archaeological Survey of India has few takers among archaeologists and historians.

The tourism and culture ministry has prepared a blueprint for the Indian Archaeological and Heritage Service, along the lines of the Indian Administrative Service, to streamline and professionalise the survey. A note has also been prepared for the Cabinet’s approval.

Surajbhan, an archaeologist with Kurukshetra University, said: “Foisting bureaucrats on academic institutions is not good for the health of these institutions. It leads to a general decline in academic quality.”

K.M. Shrimali, an ancient-history expert with Delhi University, said: “For decades, we have been arguing in favour of de-bureaucratising academic institutions. Creating a separate cadre of bureaucrats for the ASI is not a solution to its problems.”

Most academics support “professionalising” the survey, not “bureaucratising” it. “They can find a good academically competent person to head the institution,” an archaeologist said. The survey has been without a director-general since 1994.

“(If) You begin recruiting cadre for the IAHS now, it will take another 30 years for an officer to reach the level of additional secretary, which is commensurate with the post of a director-general in the ASI. What will happen to the institution in this period'” he asked.

From 1994, the survey has been managed by IAS officers. The Centre believes that such ad-hocism has eaten into the vitals of the survey, which is responsible for conducting excavations and preserving all monuments in the country.

If the tourism ministry’s proposal comes through, it will put in place a process of selection through the civil services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission.

The selected candidates will attend a four-month course at Mussoorie’s Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, followed by a 20-month diploma course at Delhi’s Institute of Archaeology.

At the institute, the candidates will study subjects such as Museology, Epigraphy and Numismatics.

Surajbhan, however, has doubts about the institute’s effectiveness. “The training given here (Institute of Archaeology) is only technical. There is no holistic-historical perspective,” he said.

Officials at the public service commission, which will be the nodal agency for conducting the archaeological exams, prefers to be tight-lipped. “At present, we do not know the guidelines for the IAHS cadre and would prefer to wait till we know them fully,” a commission official said.

Most academics feel the move, though well-intentioned, will end up churning out another batch of “high-handed” bureaucrats. “We must not forget that IAS officers are also extremely pliable to government pressure and can be manipulated for political ends,” Surajbhan said.

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