Agra: ASI on Thursday issued a final notification on the entrance fee hike at India’s monuments, doubling it for visitors from abroad at the Taj Mahal from Rs 250 to Rs 500. With another Rs 500 as toll tax, the total money they now need to shell out is a prohibitive Rs 1,000.
Domestic tourists will now have to pay Rs 30 (after adding toll tax collected by Agra Development Authority it will be Rs 40) instead of Rs 10 to visit `A’ category monuments, which include the Taj Mahal and Qutub Minar. For category `B’ monuments, the rates have been increased from Rs 5 to Rs 15 for Indians and from Rs 100 to Rs 200 for foreigners. Interestingly , ASI has introduced a new class for foreigners visiting `A’ and `B’ category monuments and for this they will have to pay Rs 750 and Rs 300 respectively. For this, they will be provided with additional facilities specified by the directorgeneral. Citizens of Saarc and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation countries will be charged domestic rates.
A less noisy Diwali was observed in Agra this year. While the sale of firecrackers witnessed a dip, the pollution levels did not abate.
“Past midnight there were few sounds of crackers bursting. It was such a relief this year. Earlier, people used to burst crackers the whole night,” said Vijay Nagar colony resident Sudhir Gupta, a financial consultant.
Green activist Shravan Kumar Singh said the quality air index early Monday morning was 380. “But this was much better than Delhi, which touched a hazardous level.” Air pollution has not come down, but the noise level was definitely controlled and within safe limits, Singh noted.
The SPM and RSPM (suspended particulate matter) level continued to remain alarmingly high. The recent measures to green up the borders of the city to filter the winds from the west, have not yielded much result.
“The worst sufferer of air pollution has been the Taj Mahal, hit by dust and mosquitoes that leave greenish excreta on its surface,” said environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya.
“For sure the awareness level is rising. Children have been sensitised in schools and we could see the message being translated into action, not wholly but in part. A positive beginning has been made,” said Yamuna activist Rahul Raj Savita.
“Since Monday morning, there was hardly any firecracker bursting. Either people have no money to buy firecrackers, or they have become sensitive and concerned about the pollution,” added activist Deepak Rajput.
The district authorities had opened 17 markets for firecrackers this year, but after Saturday evening’s fire at the Sultanpura pataka bazar, the police and the fire brigade were put on alert, and a large number of people chose to play safe.