The Board of Trustees of the Indian Museum, headed by Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, is currently meeting to decide on action against seven museum officials for the serious damage caused to a priceless 2,200-year-old ancient Indian artefact during repairs and renovation at the museum last year.
Tripathi, who took over as Governor on July 24, is visiting the museum for the first time to preside over the meeting of the 7-member Board.
About a month ago, the Union Ministry of Culture, which has jurisdiction over the Indian Museum, recommended action against seven officials, including museum director P Venugopal for the damage to the Rampurva Mauryan lion capital during repairs and renovation in December 2013.
The seven-foot tall capital, a beautiful example of the evolved architecture of the Mauryan age, allegedly broke into two after it toppled over while being shifted from one lobby to another using chains and pulleys rather than hydraulic lifts. After the capital fell, museum authorities allegedly tried to hush up the disaster, apparently by attempting to crudely put the two pieces together using adhesive.
Calcutta University Vice-Chancellor Suranjan Das is the vice-chairman of the Board of Trustees headed by the Governor. Senior officials of the culture ministry are likely to attend the meeting which, sources said, would be stormy. Another official against whom the Ministry of Culture has recommended action is Senior Preservation Officer Sunil Upadhyay, who has been missing since July 3.
The family of Upadhyay and his friends have moved Supreme Court demanding a CBI inquiry into the disappearance of the so-called whistleblower who, according to insiders, threatened to bring to the notice of the Ministry several irregularities at the museum, including a thriving money-lending racket run by a section of employees.
According to Upadhyay’s friends and family, the missing man had also objected to alleged misdeeds by a section of museum officials, and the shoddy standards of preservation of priceless artefacts. A few days before he disappeared, Upadhyay had allegedly taken pictures of the masks gallery on the third floor of the museum that had been flooded after rainwater entered the gallery, but had been warned not to send the pictures of the damage to higher authorities.
The Kolkata Police has launched a massive investigation but has failed to trace Upadhyay. Director Venugopal did not answer calls and text messages from The Indian Express. Museum spokesperson Sayan Bhattacharya said, “Today’s meeting is going to be very important. The Board of Trustees is the apex body of the museum. The fate of the seven officials will be decided today.”
In August, Governor Tripathi had told The Indian Express that he had received several reports about irregularities at the world famous museum, and would look into them. Tripathi’s predecessor at Raj Bhavan, M K Narayanan, had altogether denied the damage to the Rampurva capital.