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‘Restore’ or ‘demolish’ Taj Mahal, pained SC tells Govt
Enough is enough. The Government should either get down with a plan to restore the pristine beauty of Taj Mahal or demolish it.” These words from a pained Supreme Court Bench set the clock ticking for the Centre and Uttar Pradesh Government to have a plan in place before the apex court begins day-to-day hearing on July 31 for restoring Taj Mahal.
Incensed by the sheer “lethargy” of the Government authorities that failed to make Taj Mahal a crowning symbol of India’s architectural marvel in the world, Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta felt that undoubtedly the Taj Mahal was more splendid and aesthetically beautiful than France’s iconic Eiffel Tower. However, the latter draws 80 million tourists annually while Taj Mahal has a footfall of just 10 million.
“You (Government) can shut down the Taj. You can demolish it if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided,” an anguished Bench remarked on the apathy of Government towards protecting the Mughal era monument.
“Uttar Pradesh (Government) is not bothered. No action plan or vision document has come yet. Either you demolish it or you restore it,” the Bench observed.
On the issue of security that has remained one of the reasons for not developing the area around the heritage monument, the Bench said, “We are obsessed with security. At every place (in foreign cities), you have towers to have a bird’s eye view of the city. But in India, you have security problems. There are no such towers to look at the city…There is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Perhaps it is nothing compared to Taj Mahal. Eighty million people come there (Paris). This is eight times more than what we have.”
Terming all vision documents prepared so far by successive Governments “hopeless”, the Bench gave a deadline of July 31 when it will commence day-to-day hearing on efforts to protect the 17th century ivory white marble mausoleum which is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What pained the court most was to note that India was losing out by not doing the needful to promote this tourist spot on the world map. “Do you (Centre) realise the loss to the country due to this sheer lethargy? Foreign exchange, infrastructure, everything is lost due to this. There is a loss to tourism. One monument can do it, but there is apathy.”
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ANS Nadkarni told the court that the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur was conducting an assessment of air pollution level in and around the mausoleum and Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) covering an area of about 10,400 sq kms spread around Taj. The Bench shot back by wondering whether the report will come after Taj gets worse beyond repair. Sadly, all steps taken so far have had a negative effect on the monument, the Bench added.
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