There are many a job opening, with posts falling vacant regularly, but there are no candidates to fill them up.
This is the plight of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and it is more so in with the Directorate of Epigraphy headquartered in Mysore with zonal offices in Chennai and Lucknow.
With IT, BT and financial sectors luring away a huge number of students, no one today is interested in arts subjects. It is worse in case of subjects like epigraphy, ancient languages and related subjects.
In the Mysore directorate alone, there are over 100,000 transcripts of inscriptions. These inscriptions contain a rich body of knowledge - on literary, scientific, social and even engineering knowledge and above all, Indian values. Collected over several decades, these are in about 30 Indian languages and a large number of them are in ancient languages like Prakrit, Brahmi and Sanskrit, and Arabic, unravelling of which will help reconstruct our history.
The earliest writing so far deciphered in India is the inscriptions of emperor Ashoka in Prakrit language and Brahmi script.
The Indus Valley script is yet to be deciphered. Karnataka boasts of over 10 Ashokan edicts. Sadly their deciphering and study has received a setback with very few scholars available, though there are scores of inscriptions that need to be transcribed.
Epigraphy director T S Ravishankar lamented that the number of those who can read and decipher these historic inscriptions are dwindling, while hundreds of inscriptions have been traced across the country. There are hardly 2-3 experts who can read the Brahmi script.
The Arabic wing at Nagpur has only four experts to study Urdu, Persian and Arabic inscriptions and there are about 8-10 job vacancies. There are very few independent readers of these valuable collections.
When these epigraphists retire soon, there will no one to work in these areas. Now alone, over 30 posts were lying vacant, while the ASI was urging the government to sanction more posts to overcome staff shortage.
In Karnataka alone, the number of those who can read and understand Old Kannada is falling over the years.
Former director general of archaeology M S Nagaraja Rao bemoaned the situation in numismatics, the science of coinage.
“The situation is still deplorable in this area. Across the country, there are hardly 3-4 numismatists left to study old and ancient coins,” he said.
Underling the urgent need to create a cadre of epigraphists and numismatists, Rao said the Vivekananda Institute of Indian Studies (VIIS) of which he is the director would start shortly programmes in Indian studies including epigraphy and numismatics in co-operation with the ASI and the directorate.
Towards this, the VIIS and the directorate was organising a three-day weekend exhibition of selected 60 transcripts of inscriptions in four colleges in Mysore.
The first exhibition was conducted from July 25 at Sadvidya PU College, Vijayanagar. The exhibition concludes on August 31, Ravishankar added.