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ASI retrieved 357 antiquities from foreign countries from 1976 till date: Govt

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New Delhi, Feb 8 (PTI) The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has retrieved 357 antiquities from foreign countries from 1976 till date, the government informed Parliament on Thursday.

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Out of these antiquities, 344 have been retrieved since 2014, Union Minister for Culture G Kishan Reddy said in a written response to a query.

"Government is committed to reduce illicit trafficking of antiquities. Whenever theft of an antiquity is reported, FIR is lodged in concerned police station and 'Look Out Notice' is issued to law enforcement agencies including Custom Exit Channels to keep vigil to trace stolen antiquity and prevent its illegal export," he said.

In case, an antiquity is traced, case is pursued by concerned law enforcement agency in coordination with the ASI for its recovery. Section 3 of the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972 prevents export of antiquities outside India, Reddy said.

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Licensing officers have been appointed or deputed by the ASI, as per provisions of AAT, Act, 1972 to regulate the business of antiquities within the country, he added.

"Government organises awareness programmes, workshops, seminar and exhibitions on specific occasions, to create awareness about conventions and retrieval of antiquities," the minister said in his response.

The government is committed to bring back the antiquities of Indian origin which were taken away from India. For retrieval of antiquities, the ASI takes up the matter with the Indian embassies or missions abroad through the Ministry of External Affairs, he added.

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In response to another query on the status and progress of the Bharat Shared Repository of Inscriptions (BharatSHRI), Reddy said a total 67,461 estampages of Indian epigraphs have been taken up under BharatSHRI project by the ASI.

Out of these 29,260 estampages have been digitised.

"No separate budget has been allocated for the project and the expenditure is incurred through the allocated funds to Archaeological Survey of India," Reddy added.

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The ASI collects inscriptions from different parts of the country through meticulous village to village surveys, undertaken by team of epigraphists.

The estampages of the inscriptions are then studied and preserved in various epigraphy branches.

The information is disseminated through publications such as Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy, brochures and booklets like "Indian Archaeology- A Review", every year. The ASI being the custodian of the epigraphic wealth of the nation, has taken up the project by itself, he added. PTI KND ZMN

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