Five years after the Karnataka high court passed strictures against the government for failing to protect the World Heritage Sites in the state, the government has done little to safeguard its monuments from encroachments.
According to The Times of India report by Chethan Kumar, 11 per cent of the centrally protected monuments in Karnataka are encroached, which gives the state the dubious distinction of having the second highest number of encroached monuments in the country.
The encroachers are mostly street-side vendors and traders.
Karnataka is only behind Uttar Pradesh, where 96 structures have been encroached.
There are 508 centrally protected monuments in 24 out the 30 districts in the state and 57 have been encroached upon, reported ToI.
Temples in Hampi, Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur are highly encroached upon. In fact Bijapur, which houses 182 monuments, has the highest number of encroachments.
The responsibility of protecting these monuments lies with the estate officers of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). However, even if they issue notices to these traders, a complete clampdown on encroachments will be made easier if the stateâ€™s archaeological departments and local administration helped.
However, Manjula N, commissioner for the department of archaeology, museums and heritage passed the buck on to the local administration.
â€śThe ASI has the right to deal with these monuments, and we have no role to play in this. If ASI is unable to clear the encroachments, then the practice is to seek help from the local administration,â€ť she said.
Director of municipal administration, Vishal R, said in defence of the government accused ASI of not taking the initiative. â€śThe ASI must take the initiative. These are centrally protected monuments, and we play a supporting role. We will be more than happy to help the ASI.â€ť
Historians in the state opine that the lack of funding, staff and awareness made this problem grow.
Prof S Settar, a historian with the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, said, â€śFund paucity, staff and lack of awareness among citizens to push for preservation are existing problems, but they cannot become excuses for our failure to protect our heritage. The preservation policy is outdated, lacks innovation. Local bodies neglect preservation, and disown several properties.â€ť
In 2011, the state government tried removing encroachments at the Virupaksha Temple complex being used by traders. However, the traders resisted the razing of their shops attached to the temple and a few appealed to the court. They even rejected the rehabilitation proposed by the government.