The focus is slowly but surely shifting on the conservation of the existing heritage in the State. There is not just a State Heritage Policy being drafted by the Department of Town and Country Planning, but the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology is also getting into the act promoting heritage circuits for conservation and tourism purposes. Two circuits are already being planned by the latter, but it is the policy being drafted by the TCP department that promises not just a boost to heritage conservation, but in also bringing about a change in the manner in which the government has been viewing the existing structures of heritage value that dot the State.
While the Archaeological Survey of India and the Department of Archives and Archaeology have certain monuments under their charge for protection and conservation and the works involved are met with government funds, there are a number of other structures that have immense heritage value, but have not been granted any protection and status, and quite a few of them exist in private property and are owned by individuals, who do not have the financial means to meet the demands of conservation. The upkeep of a heritage structure involves a substantial sum and some concerted efforts, which most individuals aren’t able to meet from their own finances. It is this wrinkle that the heritage policy, that is currently being drafted, seeks to iron out.
The highlights of the heritage policy would be providing financial help for the protection and conservation of heritage structures situated in private properties and also nominating and empowering local governing bodies like panchayats and municipalities as ‘caretakers’ of these properties that are of local importance. This attains importance, as the Department of Archives and Archaeology cannot declare these structures as protected and so it is not possible for the department to maintain them. The two measures being proposed in the heritage policy would be a solution to the conservation problem faced by individuals, for this to be successful, the policy needs to be formulated as quickly as possible and then implemented so that it does not remain as merely suggestions or schemes on paper. It has already taken quite a bit of time to reach this stage, and in the meantime heritage structures have been reduced to rubble right where they once stood.
Across the State there are various structures of historical significance that need to be maintained and saved for posterity by being given a new lease of life. The new sensitivity towards heritage is welcome, as otherwise it is only when a structure is threatened that the local community or government wakes up. Take for instance the case of just over two years ago when there had even been a suggestion to demolish the dilapidated building at Margao that once housed the Camara Municipal de Salcete, despite there earlier having been resolutions passed in the Margao Municipal Council to conserve it. The building still stands, but not in the best of conditions. This perhaps should be one structure that the government should take up as a priority in conservation as it represents an event in history that saw the deaths of 21 Goans in an election.
Heritage conservation, however, does not end with the preservation of the structure, but should lead to its adaptive reuse and the creation of entrepreneurship. While in Goa there is a focus on the tourism potential of heritage structures, their use as museums or recreational spaces for the local community should also be considered, so that the dependence on tourism as the only means of earning from a heritage site is reduced.