Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday questioned the Archaeological Survey of India’s rules prohibiting people from clicking photographs at certain monuments, while inaugurating the central agency’s new headquarters at Tilak Marg area. “Today, using space technology, a photograph can be taken of a scooter parked in a small lane of Delhi from thousands of miles away, but our monuments still display hoardings: ‘photography prohibited’,” the Prime Minister said, adding, “The times have changed, so has the technology.”
By Thursday evening, the ASI issued an order allowing “photography within the premises of all centrally protected monuments and sites”.
Responding to Modi’s remarks, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said, “As per the Prime Minister’s instruction, such restrictions on the campuses of various monuments will be removed within a day. However, wherever such a ban is mandatory owing to security concerns or overcrowding issues, the restrictions will stay for the time-being.”
Considering this, the ASI, which functions under the Culture Ministry, has excluded the Ajanta Caves, Leh Palace (both housing paintings that can be damaged by camera flash) and the mausoleum of Taj Mahal from the order.
Talking about the use of satellites and space technology in the field of archaeology, Modi said, “There was a time when people negated the existence of Saraswati river. Now space technology is on its way to prove that Saraswati was not a myth. Similarly, there have been various theories in the world about the Aryan invasion — if it happened or not. Technology will gradually unravel many such issues.”
The Prime Minister also pitched for training youngsters as tourist guides to help generate employment and also enhance the interest of people in archaeological sites. “The corporate sector can also be roped in where their staff can contribute 12-15 hours each month as volunteers,” he said, enumerating steps to conserve heritage structures. However, he steered clear of making any references to the Centre’s new ‘Adopt A Heritage’ programme where corporates can adopt monuments and develop basic amenities at the sites.
Modi also recommended zeroing in on 100 Indian cities that have sites of historical value and greater tourist potential, so that the school syllabus can include information on local archaeological places and students grow up learning about them. “If children of Agra are taught about Taj Mahal, there will be no doubts about its history on their minds when they grow up,” Modi said.
The new ASI headquarters have been built at a cost of Rs 300 crore. The 1.32 lakh square foot building has been named ‘Dharohar Bhawan’ by the PM, said Minister Sharma.