Keep­ing the Taj white

Governance Now - - HERITAGE -

In 2013-14, the amount the Arche­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of In­dia (ASI) spent on clean­ing the sur­face of the Taj Ma­hal was ₹4.43 lakh – less than what it might take to main­tain a swim­ming pool or a mid­size cricket ground. In 2014-15, the fig­ure rose to ₹8.5 lakh, a value in­spir­ing not too much more con­fi­dence that se­ri­ous work was be­ing un­der­taken. Then in 2015-16, it spiked seven-fold to a re­al­is­tic ₹55.18 lakh. A par­lia­men­tary stand­ing com­mit­tee on en­vi­ron­ment had taken ex­cep­tion to the mon­u­ment go­ing yel­low. It or­dered the ASI to have the en­tire sur­face of the Taj cleaned up. Per­haps the mau­soleum needs a bud­get at least as big as the 2015-16 fig­ure; and per­haps its en­tire sur­face needs reg­u­lar up­keep to stall the rav­ages of the toxic air, dust and grime, acid rain, in­sect poop and more. The ASI and its of­fi­cials, how­ever, seem to think they are do­ing enough. Rakesh Ti­wari, who was the ASI’S di­rec­tor-gen­eral when Gov­er­nance Now spoke to him (he has since re­tired), says the hue and cry over pre­serv­ing the Taj is only be­ing raised by those who can­not and will not do any­thing for the Taj. “Young­sters have to learn...they write each other’s names on the walls of the Taj with lip­stick, they dirty the walls, they leave food wrap­pers here and there,” he says. “There’s no pub­lic aware­ness, which is what we badly need.” Sim­i­larly, the min­istry of tourism in a writ­ten re­ply told the Lok Sabha in 2016 that in the last three years, more than ₹11 crore was spent on con­ser­va­tion, preser­va­tion, main­te­nance and de­vel­op­ment of the en­vi­ron­ment around the Taj. Union min­is­ter Ma­hesh Sharma, too, claimed, liked Ti­wari, that ev­ery­thing nec­es­sary was be­ing done to pro­tect the Taj. But un­less ve­hic­u­lar and in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion in the re­gion is checked, all that is be­ing done may not be enough. For the Taj, and for the 40 pro­tected mon­u­ments (in­clud­ing two other World Her­itage Sites, Agra fort and Fateh­pur Sikri) ly­ing within the Taj Trapez­ium Zone.

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