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Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Presides Over Customs Seized Antiquities Handing-Over Ceremony to ASI

New Delhi: Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Nirmala Sitharaman, virtually led the handing-over ceremony of antiquities seized by Customs to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conducted by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) today. The ceremony took place simultaneously at seven different locations, including Bengaluru, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Delhi, Guwahati, Mumbai, and Pune.

A total of 101 seized articles of antiquities were handed over by various Customs field formations to the ASI for display and specialized care. Some of these antiquities will be showcased at ‘Dharohar,’ the National Museum of Customs & CGST in Goa.

During the ceremony, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman released a brochure titled ‘पुरावशेष के प्रहरी,’ showcasing select antiquities that were part of the event. The Finance Minister also handed over an idol of Lord Vishnu (Perumal) from the late medieval period to the Director General of ASI.

Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra, CBIC Chairman Sanjay Kumar Agarwal, Members of the Board (CBIC), Director General of ASI Yadubir Singh Rawat, and senior officers of CBIC and ASI were present at the ceremony.

Sitharaman highlighted Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s efforts to bring back stolen artefacts and antiquities to India through bilateral negotiations. She praised Customs for contributing to India’s rich history by handing over these 101 seized articles of antiquities.

The Finance Minister emphasized that the Customs Department and its formations act as the ‘guardians of the economic frontiers.’ She urged CBIC to ensure officials undergo relevant training courses at the National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics (NACIN) in Palasamudram, Andhra Pradesh.

Sitharaman emphasized the need to handle religious texts, artefacts, and antiquities with care and dignity due to their sensitive nature and historical context.

Secretary, Department of Revenue, Sanjay Malhotra, highlighted the historical, artistic, and societal value of the antiquities and emphasized the twin role of Customs and ASI officials in detecting and thwarting illegal attempts to export antiquities.

CBIC Chairman Sanjay Kumar Agarwal stressed the importance of technology, inter-agency coordination, and international cooperation in busting international smuggling syndicates. He shared a special instance where Customs officials thwarted an attempt to smuggle an ancient bronze idol of ‘Ma Kotrakshi’ in Odisha, which was later respectfully restored to its temple.

The collaboration between Indian Customs and ASI aims to secure and preserve antiquities, prohibiting unauthorized exports under the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972.

Two notable antiquities handed over include a Palm Leaf Manuscript composed in classical Champu with modern Odia script and language, and a Manuscript containing Buddhist texts, both seized in 2019 and 2020 during attempts to export to Spain and France, respectively.

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