Illegal trade in paintings, sculptures and other artefacts is one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises, estimated at $6 billion a year, according to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based advocacy group. India is one of the biggest targets for smugglers, who ship stolen antiques and other culturally important artefacts abroad to sell to art dealers and museums.
India Insight spoke to R.S. Fonia, Director (Antiquity) at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), about the black market for Indian artefacts and what the ASI is doing to bring Indian antiques back home. This interview has been lightly edited.
Are you seeing an increase or decrease in smuggling of Indian artefacts?
Awareness has increased about the antiquities, so it has decreased. Certainly there is decline of smuggling.
How big is the market for smuggled Indian artefacts?
We don’t have figures.
What initiatives are you taking to bring back Indian artefacts from abroad?
We are trying hard. That’s why we have retrieved 16-17 artefacts from abroad. We are directly interacting with all concerned agencies, but it takes some time. There are so many processes involved.