Eleven days after it rushed to dig for gold that a sadhu saw in his dreams, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) hit loose stones in one of the trenches in Daundiya Kheda, and decided to move the excavation elsewhere.
A fresh trench has been marked out nearby, and excavation will begin on Wednesday, ASI director general Pravin Srivastava said. He stressed that the project was being extended, not called off. In its bizarre hunt for buried treasure in Unnao, the ASI bypassed the established procedure of scrutiny, and employed the extraordinary powers its top official has to order an excavation.
Under the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958, and Rules 1958, the state government is expected to send a detailed proposal to the central government explicitly outlining the historical and archeological objectives of excavating any unprotected site.
In case a proposal emerges from within the ASI (as it happened in the case of Unnao ), it is submitted for shortlisting before being sent to the standing committee of the Central Advisory Board of Archeology (CABA), a body of 5-6 experts headed by the director general of the ASI. The standing committee makes a recommendation for the ASI DG to approve or reject.
The proposal to dig at Daundiya Kheda reached the ASI at the end of September 2013, nearly two months after the deadline for inviting excavation proposals for 2013-14 had passed on July 31. The CABA standing committee was not in existence then, its term having come to an end a few days earlier.
“It is true that there is a procedure for conducting excavations. But the DG has the powers to order an excavation when it is deemed fit. This particular excavation was carried out largely on the basis of the report of the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and considering the historical value of the site,” Srivastava told The Indian Express.
ASI additional DG B R Mani said that several proposals had been taken up for excavation without vetting by the CABA committee. The ASI got the GSI’s report on October 10, and following quick in-house discussions, began digging on October 18.
A reputed former ASI official confirmed that the DG is the final authority on a range of issues, but was unable to recall any earlier instance of the DG ordering such a high-profile excavation