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FM virtually presides over handing-over ceremony of 101 antiquities seized by Customs to ASI

By TIOL News Service

NEW DELHI, MAR 01, 2024: UNION Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman virtually presided over the handing-over ceremony of the antiquities seized by Customs to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conducted by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), from New Delhi, yesterday. The handing-over ceremony was held at seven different locations viz. Bengaluru, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Delhi, Guwahati, Mumbai and Pune.

In total, 101 numbers of seized articles of antiquities were handed over by different field formations of Customs to ASI for display and specialised care. Out of the said 101 antiquities, few will be displayed at 'Dharohar '- the National Museum of Customs & CGST at Goa.

Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra; CBIC Chairman Sanjay Kumar Agarwal; Members of the Board (CBIC); Director General of ASI, Yadubir Singh Rawat; Senior Officers of CBIC and ASI were also present on the occasion.

While handing over Customs seized antiquities to the ASI, the Union Finance Minister stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making sure that stolen artefacts and antiquities are brought back to India from various countries for which bilateral negotiations keep on taking place. Many artefacts and antiquities have been brought back in recent times and with these 101 seized articles of antiquities, Customs is contributing to India's rich history.

Sitharaman further stated that the Customs Department and formations under it are the ‘guardians of the economic frontiers'.

While noting that the National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics (NACIN) at Palasamudram (Andhra Pradesh), which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister in January 2024, has state-of-art facilities, the Union Finance Minister exhorted the CBIC to get the officials trained in relevant courses at NACIN Palasamudram in the coming months.

In her closing remarks, the Union Finance Minister emphasised on handling of the religious texts, artefacts, antiquities with due care and dignity due to their sensitive state and historical context by the officials concerned.

In his address on the occasion, Secretary, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Sanjay Malhotra underlined the historical, artistic, and societal value of the antiquities and highlighted the twin role of Customs and ASI officials in detection and thwarting of attempts of illegal export of antiquities.

In his address on the occasion, Agarwal accentuated the need of use of technology and inter-agency coordination as well as international cooperation in busting the international smuggling syndicates. Agarwal also mentioned of a special instance where an attempt to smuggle an ancient bronze idol of 'Ma Kotrakshi', the presiding deity of a temple of Darpangarh village, Jajpur district in Odisha was thwarted by Delhi Customs officials and the idol was respectfully restored at its place in the temple in November 2023 with the coordinated efforts of Customs, ASI, Odisha Police and the State administration.

The Indian Customs and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are collaborating since decades to secure and preserve our antiquities, be that work of literature, artefacts, idols, paintings, coins etc. Unauthorised export of antiquities is prohibited under the provisions of the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972.

Two of the notable antiquities that were handed over include Palm Leaf Manuscript having 155 leaves with hard wooden supporting covers at top and bottom. It is said to be composed in classical Champu with metres and rhythms in modern Odia script and language; and a Manuscript having 17 leaves made of hand-made paper written in Devanagari script appearing to contain Buddhist texts. These were seized in the year 2019 and 2020 while being attempted to be exported to Spain and France respectively.

The ceremony concluded with vote of thanks by Surjit Bhujbal, Member (Customs), CBIC.


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