PM’s Address at 150th Year of the Archeological Survey of India
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh addressed the 150th year of the Archeological Survey of India at a function in New Delhi today. The following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:
“It gives me great pleasure to be present here at this unique event to commemorate and celebrate the 150th year of the Archaeological Survey of India. This historic institution has made an outstanding contribution to revealing our country’s rich historical and cultural heritage and protecting it for our posterity. I pay tribute to the dedicated conservators who have, over the generations, preserved this precious legacy of ours and indeed of all humankind.
We owe much of our understanding of our pre-modern past to the extensive exploratory works, excavations and careful documentation done by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Harappan Civilization would have remained unknown but for the extensive work done by this organization. The history of early farming communities in India, the introduction of iron, the first and second phases of ancient urbanization and India’s linkages with the western and eastern world in ancient and medieval times are only some of the historical narratives that are inextricably linked with the history of the ASI.
The Archaeological Survey of India has, over the years, developed high capabilities in exploration, excavation, conservation, environmental upgradation and research and publication. Yet, archaeology today, more than ever before, is expanding its frontiers - both in terms of its philosophy and in terms of methodology.
There is today a growing recognition of the relevance of multi-disciplinary approaches to material culture with a view to evolving a holistic view of our past. Scientific approaches to Archaeology are being strengthened through sub disciplines like dating methods, geo-archaeology, palaeo-botany, archaeo-metallurgy and palaeo-pathology to name only a few.
In some of the advanced countries, the preservation movement has evolved in innovative ways that are meaningful to the living communities that surround historic monuments. In the US for instance, federal policies have encouraged conservation of neighbourhoods rather than buildings through partnerships among public authorities and community based organizations.
In India too we need to evolve a more holistic understanding of conservation that combines our preservation efforts with the social and economic needs of the community. I would urge the Ministry of Culture and the ASI to seek greater integration of preservation and conservation efforts in cities with public policies and schemes for urban renewal. Successful conservation efforts in the past have incorporated local area development through employment generation, boosting local crafts and arts, building of infrastructure, environmental conservation and landscaping.
The pressures of urbanization and population growth are now threatening our historic monuments everywhere in the country. Unless we act quickly to improve the manner in which we look after these treasures, we will have to answer to the future generations. This is a great national enterprise in which different arms of the government should partner with civil society and local communities. We should spare no resources and no effort to bring our systems on par with the best in the world. This will of course require imagination and administrative resolve.
Our government has placed a lot of emphasis on the all round revitalization of the ASI. We are committed to giving the maximum professional autonomy in the working of the ASI. We have introduced rules and procedures that will help to bring about greater professionalism in the organization.
We have to strengthen the intellectual resources of the organization. We need to introduce new ideas and new work cultures that instill professional pride and attract talent. In administrative matters, I believe that flexibility and practicality should be emphasized rather than adherence to the rigid rules. The outreach of ASI to our universities, research institutions and professional communities in India and abroad needs to be expanded. It is only through a collective enterprise that we can make a paradigm shift in the way we conserve our precious monuments.
A significant part of our heritage still remains outside the purview of the ASI. The state archaeology departments which are responsible for such monuments and sites need both greater professional and financial support. The Planning Commission has recently suggested a Centrally Sponsored scheme for this purpose. I would advise the Ministry of Culture and the ASI to finalise a scheme, which entrusts greater responsibilities to State Archaeology Departments, Universities and Research Institutes in the task of restoration and conservation of our vast heritage.
Advocacy, outreach and awareness building among students, industry and community organizations should be integral to our efforts. Schemes such as the Cultural Heritage for Youth Leadership scheme, under which we can now give assistance for bringing school children to monuments, museums and cultural spaces, should be expanded. I understand that there has been a good response to changes made in signages, narratives and electronic equipment at several important heritage sites of our country.
I am very happy that the ASI is implementing some of the recommendations made by the Central Advisory Board of Archaeology relating to epigraphy, archival management and record keeping and publications.
The Epigraphia Indica (Sanskrit & Dravidian and Arabic & Persian) has been published again after two decades. The Ministry of Culture has also introduced a National Professorship of Epigraphy with the Archaeological Survey of India. I understand some distinguished epigraphists would soon join the organization and contribute substantially to publication of as yet unpublished inscriptions and to training of young epigraphists. I understand the ASI has also started organizing special training programmes in Epigraphy for young scholars.
I commend the ASI for reviving its prestigious journal ‘Ancient India’ after a gap of almost 50 years. We need many more such initiatives.
The ASI is actively involved in a number of conservation projects of major monuments in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. A lot of good restoration work has been done in the past and this international outreach should be preserved. ASI’s brilliant conservation work in Bamiyan in Afghanistan is still highly appreciated. ASI should seriously consider an ambitious reorganization scheme for its Institute of Archaeology, which is now attracting students from our neighbouring countries.
Archaeology bridges the past with the present and defines our journey to the future. We ought to give the highest priority to the conservation of the amazing diversity in creative expressions and the pluralist traditions represented in our material culture. This is no easy task and it will require great sense of vision, sincerity of purpose and coordinated efforts by different stakeholders. I commend you to this noble endeavor.”