Karnataka has nearly 650 ASI sites, but the annual budget is only around ₹ 20 crore
Lack of staff, insufficient budget, and the disappearance of monuments and sites due to encroachment are some of the major issues plaguing conservation efforts in the state.
The damage to the Kali idol at the Mahalakshmi temple belonging to the Hoysala era in Doddagaddavalli in Hassan taluk highlights the challenges of protecting state heritage sites and monuments.
Karnataka has nearly 650 sites under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the second highest in India after Uttar Pradesh.
But sources said the annual budget was barely sufficient and was around ₹ 20 crore including salaries for security personnel.
However, not all monuments are security guard sanctioned and this is limited to sites that tend to have a tourist attraction.
In addition to centrally protected monuments, the State Department of Archeology, Museums and Heritage has almost 850 sites, but again the budget is around ₹ 25 crore, which is insufficient.
The department also suffers from a serious staff shortage. The sanctioned staff is around 232 people and there are almost 50% of vacancies.
The authorized workforce for workers in Group D – mainly monument attendants – is 119 positions and 89 are vacant, according to sources.
The situation is so dire that experts have warned that artifacts and sites could disappear due to encroachment in the absence of protection.
Recently, the Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology (KSCST) completed 3D and laser mapping of 105 monuments in the Bengaluru Revenue Division.
But his report noted that at least two of the sites included “did not exist.”
The report stated that the Siddeshwara temple at Neerthadi in Davangere did not exist, while 35 megalithic monuments at site number 14 and 185 at Jadigenhalli in Hoskote were either attacked or destroyed.
Likewise, the KSCST was unable to perform the 3D laser mapping of a megalithic monument in Kannuru, also in Hoskote, because it was submerged.
NS Rangaraju, organizer of the Mysuru chapter of INTACH, said the threat to historic sites is real, but no importance is attached to it.
“We document their presence during field visits, but the area is converted to agricultural areas or is removed from the site on our subsequent visits,” he said.
As a solution, Mr. Rangaraju mentioned the idea of setting up heritage committees at the taluk level comprising locals and elected officials.
He said the department alone could not extend security to all sites, given the labor and financial implications, the public should get involved and suggested that police visit the area frequently. sites to ensure they are not vandalized.