UNNAO (TIP): This dusty hamlet in the interior of Uttar Pradesh near the flowing Ganga river has suddenly become the centre of attraction for a battery of TV news channel reporters, Peepli Live style. Hordes of curious onlookers have flocked to this place in anticipation of the one thousand tonnes of gold, which a sadhu “saw in his dream”. Like the Bollywood potboiler film Peepli Live, shops selling trinkets and food items have sprung up near the fort, where people till last week hardly used to visit. The cynosure of all eyes is a shady sadhu named Shobhan Sarkar, who has dreamed up about a hanged 1857 martyr Raja telling him in sleep that 1,000 tonnes of gold lay hidden beneath the grounds of the fort. One of his disciples contact the Union minister from Chhatisgarh Charan Das Mahant, who, in turn, pressurized the Archaeological Survey of India to take up the matter. First, the Geological Survey of India experts came with equipment, and earmarked at least five places on the grounds indicating metal being present beneath the surface.

On October 18, ASI experts begun digging in layers in search of the supposedly hidden golden treasure, in front of scores of TV cameras. TV news channels have stationed their outdoor broadcasting (OB) vans at the site in Daundia Kheda to relay live, the digging of the fort’s ground with excited reporters telling the world about minute-by-minute details of the digging. People from as faraway places as Lakhimpur Khiri, Kanpur, Kannuaj and Lucknow have flocked to the scene eager to see the elusive golden treasure that will surely warm the cockles of a government facing a severe CAD (current account deficit) conundrum. Draughtsmen, surveyors, photographers from ASI have been lined up alongwith the labourers for the digging. The ASI team itself has no idea from where to begin. The team has planned to dig up three places two metres deep and 10 metres apart for the treasure hunt. The initial digging will only be a trial, says P K Mishra, Lucknow circle head of ASI.

The three holes two-metre deep will be square shaped, and ASI will be checking the soil with big sieves. When the digging will reach 20 feet deep, each layer of the soil will be checked. Initially the layer is expected to be dry, and the deeper it digs, the soil may be wet, given the Ganga flowing nearby. The third layer could be of rocks, followed by water. ASI experts feel, excavation work may hit a roadblock, if water seeps out. The labourers hired for excavation have been trained for ASI work – not digging indiscriminately but with infinite patience. The results are expected to come within two months, says ASI circle head P K Mishra. If the “first trial” fails, the ASI will take up the “second trial”. Meanwhile, from faraway Pune, Dr Arun Bapat, a geologist, says, ASI can located the golden treasure even without excavation. “On has to use gravity meter and ground penetrating radar to find out where the treasure lies”, says Dr Bapat. “The gravity meter will tell you at what depth the treasure lies”, says the geologist.

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