International Day for Monuments and Sites

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    In Context

    • World Heritage Day/International Day for Monuments and Sites is celebrated on April 18th every year.

    More about the World Heritage Day

    • About:
      • World Heritage Day, also known as the International Day for Monuments and Sites, is an annual observance held on April 18th.
    • Significance:
      • It is celebrated to raise awareness about the importance of cultural heritage and to celebrate the diversity of our shared human history.
      • The day is dedicated to preserving human heritage and recognizing the efforts of the organisations that support it. 
      • The ancient buildings and monuments are an asset for us and for the world. Therefore, World Heritage Day represents a collective effort to preserve heritage around the world.
    • Theme:
      • The World Heritage Day 2023 theme is “Heritage Changes”.
        • Each year, International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) proposes a theme for activities to be organised by its members and partners – and anyone who wants to join in marking the day. 
        • A different theme is featured each year, and events and activities are organized around the world to promote the protection and preservation of cultural heritage.
    • History of the day:
      • The day was established by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in 1982 during a seminar in Tunisia and was later approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1983 at the 22nd session of the UNESCO Conference.
      • The ICOMOS organization was established on the principles put down in the Venice Charter, also known as the 1964 International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites.

    About Monuments of National Importance (MNI) of India

    • About:
      • The MNIs are officially conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which functions in accordance with The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 2010 (AMASR Act 2010).
    • Issues:
      • According to a 2013 audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General, there are 24 “untraceable” monuments that are still being considered as the MNIs. the number might actually be higher due to a lack of proper documentation.
      • This and many other problems with India’s monuments are the subject of a recent government report titled ‘Report on Monuments of National Importance: The Urgent Need for Rationalization‘. 
        • The report identifies various problems with India’s MNIs and suggests ways to fix them.

    Report on Monuments of National Importance: The Urgent Need for Rationalization

    • The report identifies three main problems with the MNIs: 
      • Selection issues; 
      • Skewed distribution of monuments across the country; and 
      • Inadequate expenditure used for protecting MNIs.
    • Selection issues:
      • A key issue with the current list of monuments is the criteria based on which a number of monuments were considered of national importance, with nearly 2,584 monuments in the current list having been shifted en masse from the colonial era lists with most never having been reviewed for cultural significance, historical relevance or even national importance, over the years. 
        • The report calls for these monuments to be visited and reevaluated in order to be placed on the new lists.
      • Selection of the MNIs is also flawed because the existing criteria for declaring a monument as a “monument of national importance” in India is not well defined
        • Neither the AMASR Act 1958 nor the National Policy for Conservation, 2014 has a proper definition for what ‘national importance’ stands for. 
        • In the absence of any well-defined principles, the selection process is rather arbitrary.
    • Geographically skewed distribution of monuments:
      • Another overarching issue with the current MNI list is the overall imbalance in geographical distribution of the MNIs. 
      • Nearly 60% (2,238 out of 3,695) of them are located in just five states: Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
        • While it is possible that a historically significant city like Delhi will have a cluster of sites, large forts, and palaces which may count as one site, it does not translate to why culturally and historically significant states like Bihar (70), Odisha (80), Chhattisgarh (46) and Kerala (29) have disproportionately fewer MNIs.
    • Inadequate expenditure for the protection of MNIs:
      • India’s total expenditure on the MNIs is very little and inadequate to take care of these large-scale monuments. 
      • What’s more, a significant proportion of the allocated amount is mostly spent on peripheral activities and annual maintenance. 
      • Furthermore, there is also an imbalance in the distribution of these resources across the country.

    The remedies & way ahead

    • After identifying the problems, the report offers some recommendations. 
    • Review and rationalize the list:
      • First, the ASI should review and rationalize the existing list periodically. It should also publish a list of notifications with detailed information on the monuments that do make it into the list.
    • Delegation of work:
      • Another important recommendation is that the ASI should hand over the protection and upkeep of each monument to the respective states and should denotify any standalone antiquities. 
      • These antiquities can be moved to a museum.
    • Increasing funds:
      • The funds allocated for the preservation of the MNIs should be increased and the ASI should make an effort to retain the revenue generated from tickets, events, fees and other sources.
    • Defining criteria for MNIs:
      • The ASI should also create a comprehensive list of criteria and procedures for declaring a monument an MNI. 
      • The criteria should include: 
        • historical significance and provenance; 
        • geographical description; 
        • cultural and architectural significance; 
        • importance in the development of civilization or culture; and 
        • significance as a source of inspiration or education.

    Source: IE