New Delhi: The iconic Taj Mahal remains to be the most popular destination among tourists, with an average footfall of 63 lakh every year.
Counted amongst one of the world’s seven wonders, Taj Mahal received more than 68 lakh visitors last year including, both foreign and domestic tourists.
Some of the other monuments in India that have popularity among tourists include the Agra Fort in Agra, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and Purana Quila in Delhi, Charminar and Golconda Fort in Hyderabad, Ajanta and Ellora caves, Bibi ka Maqbara and the Shaniwarwada Fort in Maharashtra, Konark Sun Temple in Odisha and the Mamallapuram group of monuments in Chennai.
These are only 14 monuments out of the 3,691 Centrally Protected Monuments that receive more than 10 lakh visitors annually. While rest of the 3,677 Centrally Protected Monuments struggle to find even five lakh visitors annually, 45 of them did not even receive a lakh visitor in the last three years. Surprisingly the Ashokan Rock edicts in Junagadh did not receive a single visitor during 2016 and 2017, while only 8,548 visitors visited this site in 2018.
Interestingly, the Ministry of Culture has only provided data for the 116 Centrally Protected Monuments while for the rest of the 3,575 monuments, the government does not have any data. Sources in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said that this lack of data is because most of the other monuments are not ticketed.
ASI officials however, pinned the blame for neglect of most of the Centrally Protected Monuments to the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Culture and have said that the lack of funds and lack of marketing by the ministries have led to the poor condition of these monuments.
An ASI official told The Sunday Guardian on the condition of anonymity, “The government and the Ministry of Culture are not providing us with adequate funds to maintain all the monuments. Most funds are allocated for the famous ones like Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, etc, and the ones which are not thronged by tourists remain neglected for years. Some monuments are in such a dilapidated condition that one can not even enter them.”
“India has such a rich cultural and historical heritage and the government should take this into consideration and promote all these places. There are historical monuments in every city in India, but most of them are suffering due to the lack of funds and proper maintenance,” the ASI official added.
A look at the budgetary allocation for conservation and preservation of these monuments also projects a grim picture of how the funds are allocated and utilised.
While the total budgetary allocation for the ASI remained at a little more than Rs 400 crore last year (2018-19 financial year), almost 50%, which is Rs 200 crore of the total budgetary allocation, was allocated and spent on the Director General’s office and its staff and the rest 200 crore was spent on preservation and conservation of the 3,691 monuments.
The budgetary allocation for the DG’s office of the ASI has increased by 50% since 2016-17. In 2016-17, the budgetary allocation for the DG’s office was around Rs 100 crore and it increased to Rs 200 crore the next year and has remained the same thereafter, while funds allocated to monuments have decreased.