Karnataka has nearly 650 sites under ASI, but the annual budget is only around ₹20 crore
Shortage of staff, inadequate budget, and disappearing monuments and sites owing 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 at Doddagaddavalli in Hassan taluk highlights challenges in protecting the State’s 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 is hardly adequate and is around ₹20 crore inclusive of wages for the security staff.
However, not all monuments are sanctioned security staff and that is restricted to sites that tend to have tourist attraction.
In addition to centrally protected monuments, the State Department of Archaeology, Museums, and Heritage has nearly 850 sites, but again the budget is around ₹25 crore which is inadequate.
The department is also plagued by an acute shortage of staff. The sanctioned staff is around 232 and there is nearly 50% vacancy.
The sanctioned strength for Group D workers — mainly monument attendants — is 119 posts and 89 are vacant, according to sources.
The situation is so grave that experts have cautioned that artifacts and sites could disappear owing to encroachment in the absence of protection.
Recently, the Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology (KSCST) completed the 3D and laser mapping of 105 monuments in the Bengaluru revenue division.
But its report noted that at least two of the sites included “did not exist.”
The report said that the Siddeshwara temple at Neerthadi in Davangere did not exist, while 35 megalithic monuments on site number 14 and 185 in Jadigenhalli in Hoskote was either encroached upon or destroyed.
Similarly, the KSCST could not carry out the 3D laser mapping of a megalithic monument in Kannuru, also in Hoskote, as it was submerged.
N.S. Rangaraju, convener of Mysuru chapter of INTACH, said the threat to historical sites are real but no importance is attached to them.
“We document their presence during field visits but the area gets converted to agricultural tracts or are removed from the site during our subsequent visits,” he said.
As a solution, Mr. Rangaraju mooted the idea of constituting heritage committees at taluk levels comprising locals and elected representatives.
He said as the department alone cannot extend security to all the sites, given the manpower and financial implications, the public should get involved and suggested that the police make frequent visits to the sites to ensure that they are not vandalised.