Encroachment by government spells doom for tourism
By our Staff
GUWAHATI, March 25: This is a fact which is hard to swallow – encroachers have spelt doom for tourism in Assam, and the encroachers include some government departments, including the Department of Tourism, and some temple committees.
Assam has as many as 55 centrally-protected monuments/sites under the jurisdiction of Archeological Survey of India’s (ASI) Guwahati Circle. It is indeed a blessing that such sites are alluring tourists. The curse, however, is that nine of the 55 monuments have been under encroachment – some by various departments of the State Government and some by a few temple committees. Both the categories of encroachers have dealt a blow to the State tourism sector that has been struggling hard to lure tourists.
Sivadol, Devidol and Vishnudol in Sivasagar district have long been under the encroachment of the respective temple committees. While the temple committee has constructed pucca religious shrine, office and quarters for staff at Sivadol, the respective temple committees of Devidol and Vishnudol have constructed pucca religious shrines in the sites.
The Cachari ruins at Khaspur in Cachar district is encroached by the Department of Sericulture, Assam that has constructed its office buildings there. The Cachari ruins include a small unfinished dwelling house, the Sn Mandir, the Singh Darwaza, the Temple of Rachandi, the Baradwari, the East Wall and two other small temples.
At Hajo in Kamrup district, the PHED and the temple committee have constructed structures at the protected area of Sri Sri Hayagriva Madhava Temple. Even the Department of Tourism has erected permanent structures within the protected area in Sri Sri Kameswar Temple site at Hajo. The temple committee of Sri Sri Ganesh Temple at Hajo has erected a bhogghar in the protected area. Same is the case with Sri Sri Kedar Temple at Hajo where the temple committee erected some structures. At the stone inscription at Poa-Mecca Mosque at Hajo the Masjid committee resorted to do some marble constructions.
A top official of the ASI, Guwahati Circle, said: “We’ve issued show-cause notices to the encroachers with copies to district administrations concerned. However, we haven’t been able to remove/demolish the structures as yet. The constructions were without our knowledge, permission and guidelines.”
According to the official, a regulated area means an area near or adjoining a protected monument which the Central Government has, by notification in the official gazette, declared to be a regulated area, for the purpose of mining operation or construction. “No person other than an archaeological officer shall undertake any construction in a regulated area, except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a licence granted by the Director-General, ASI of the circle concerned,” the official said, and added: “The Central Government has declared up to 100 metres from the protected limits to be prohibited area and beyond it up to 200 metres to be regulated area for purposes of both mining operation and construction.”
The official further said: “The tiol Monument Authority (NMA) under the Ministry of Culture and the Competent Authorities (CA) were set up and now all applications for construction related work in the prohibited and regulated area are to be submitted to the CA and then to NMA for consideration of the application.”
“The encroachments in protected monuments and protected areas are removed as per the provisions contained in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and Rules, 1959 framed thereunder. Superintending Archaeologists are also authorized to issue show-cause notices under the provisions of the Act followed by a direction to the District Collector/Magistrate by Central Government to remove such encroachment under section 19 (2) of the Act and Rule 38 (2). In order to contain the encroachments and removing them, the Superintending Archaeologist in charge of the Circle has been vested with the powers of an Estate Officer to issue eviction notices/orders to the encroachers under Public Premises (Eviction of Uuthorized Occupants) Act, 1971. In addition to the regular watch and ward staff, private security personnel, State police guards and CISF have also been deployed for the safety and security of selected monuments,” the official said while spelling out what ASI has done to free encroached monuments.