DELHI: The announcement by the Indian Culture Ministry this week of a
new drive to count up all of the nation's monuments and sites of
archaeological interest hints that the government's previous approach
had a certain cavalier complacency.

Explaining the need for the government's first census of historic
buildings and antiquities, Culture Minister Ambika Soni warned that the
country risked losing a number of these sites if swift action was not taken.

Last year, amid considerable embarrassment, she was forced to admit that
35 theoretically protected monuments had already disappeared because of
rapid urbanization and development - 12 of them in Delhi, not far from
her own office.

Her proposed creation of both a National Mission on Monuments and
Antiquities and a National Heritage Site Commission, outlined on New
Year's Eve, has, however, dismayed some campaigners for the preservation
of the nation's heritage, raising as it does the prospect of yet more
panels and committees to address an increasingly urgent problem.