Thursday February 21, 2019
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Taj city’s rank slips as it remains dirty

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Agra: Previously ranked at 27, the Taj city has lost the race to be included in smart cities and slipped to 47/73 in the Swachh Sarvekshan drive.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Mission) appears to have run aground in Agra and made no discernible change to the city’s profile or the upkeep of basic amenities.

“This, when the city is ranked the number one tourist destination in the country, visited by more than 10 million people annually,” social activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.

The Agra Municipal Corporation is now working on a new plan to clean up the mess, introducing night cleaning of markets.

Municipal commissioner Indra Vikram Singh said initially a dozen bazars will be cleaned every Saturday night. Later this would be expanded to other areas of the city. The sanitary supervisors of the municipal wards have been equipped with cameras to enable them to upload photographs of the cleanliness work done.

“The reason why the city remains so dirty and disorganised is because of the wrong priorities of the government. The officials spend more time on organising fairs and festivals than on getting the basics fixed,” activist Ranjan Sharma said.

“This month, the city hosts a literature festival, a national golf tournament, a car race, the Taj Mahotsava, the literary colloquium and a whole lot of other activities. Cleaning up the city and streamling the traffic management plan, or improving the law and order situation, are nowhere on the priority list,” he added.

Local politicians have no role to play in cleaning up the city or the Yamuna river. On paper, public toilets have been opened but in large parts of the city, people still defecate in the open, along the drains.

“As you enter the city, a strange stink or odour hits you and never leaves your company till you leave the city,” a visitor from Mysuru, Jagan Gupta said.

Mysuru tops the list of India’s cleanest cities in the current list. Though the Modi government claims to have built eight million toilets in 2015, India continues to have the highest number of people estimated at 595 million defecating in the open.

The first question many foreign tourists ask while closing in on Taj Mahal is: Why does this whole area stink?

Tourists from other parts too have felt “the whole city of Agra has an unusual stink or odour. We don’t know what the reason is, but it is there like the urban clusters are perched on mounds of shit,” a foreign visitor retorted recently.

“Elsewhere they roll out a red carpet for guests. In Agra, you have permanently animal dung splashed roads and a stink in the air welcoming people. Little wonder no one wants to stay back for the night in Agra,” Surendra Sharma, President of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society said.

Environmentalists in the city blame the Yamuna river, which has been reduced to a huge sewage canal for want of fresh water.

“The city’s sewer system is choked, the treatment plants are not working. In many localities waste water, including sewerage, is being directly pumped into the earth through borewells,” said emporium owner and handicrafts exporter Abhinav Jain.

“Methane is being generated from huge mountains of garbage piled up everywhere as there is no proper and scientific system in place for its disposal. Hospital waste is also callously littered around. You have the dairies and cattle herds freely loitering around. No wonder foul and noxious gases are being released into the atmosphere,” he added.

In the Taj Ganj area around the Taj Mahal, there are hundreds of horse-drawn tongas. Now there are also camel carts.

“The animals litter around. You can see the condition of the roads, all splashed up with dung that gets stuck up on the shoes and is transported inside the monument. Dairies in the Taj Ganj area have not been shifted. So you have the spectacle of cattle merrily crossing the road at the Eastern Gate of the Taj Mahal. The cattle fights are joined in by barking dogs almost daily,” Jain rued.(IANS)

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Saudi, India Admit of Putting Pressure on Countries Supporting Terrorism

Prince Mohammad said the relations between two countries were "older than history" and these were "in blood".

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The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi at the signing of agreements between India and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 03, 2016. Wikipedia

Against the backdrop of the Pulwama terror attack, India and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said there was a need to exert “all possible pressure” on countries which extend any kind of support to terror activities as they agreed for biennial summit meetings and formation of the Strategic Partnership Council.

However, at the joint interaction with the media after delegation-level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, there was no reference to Pakistan by either leader.

The Prince had just made a two-day visit to Pakistan that ended on Tuesday.

Modi said that the “barbaric terror attack” in Pulwama was another manifestation of the danger posed by terrorism to humanity.

“We agree that to deal with it effectively, there is need to put all possible pressure on countries which are giving any kind of support to terrorism,” Modi said.

India, Saudi
Modi said that the “barbaric terror attack” in Pulwama was another manifestation of the danger posed by terrorism to humanity. VOA

He said it was extremely necessary to destroy terror infrastructure and to punish terrorists and their supporters.

Modi said there was need for an action plan to deal with extremism so that the youths were not misguided by forces linked to terror and violence.

“I am happy that Saudi Arabia and India have common thoughts on this,” he said.

Prince Salman, in his remarks, said that extremism and terrorism were common concerns of the two countries and Saudi Arabia will fully cooperate with India.

“As far as the issue of extremism and terrorism, these are our common concerns. We want to tell India that we are ready to cooperate with you in every way, whether it is intelligence sharing.. Not only India but we will work with all the countries in the neighbourhood so that the future of the coming generations is secured,” he said.

Prince Mohammed said India offers investment opportunities of over $100 billon and his country will work to make investments beneficial for both countries.

He said the relations between two countries were “older than history” and these were “in blood”.

Modi said Saudi Arabia was among the most important strategic partners of India in the 21st century.

“It is in our extended neighbourhood, is a close friend and an important source of India’s energy needs. I am happy that in accordance with your suggestion, we have agreed for biennial summit meetings and Strategic Partnership Council. This will strengthen our ties,” he said.

 

India, Saudi
“We agree that to deal with it effectively, there is need to put all possible pressure on countries which are giving any kind of support to terrorism,” Modi said. Wikimedia

Modi said the two leaders discussed all aspects of the bilateral relationship and decided to take it to new heights. “We agreed to create a structure to facilitate institutional investment from Saudi Arabia. I welcome Saudi Arabia’s investment in infrastructure.”

He said time has come to turn energy relations to a strategic partnership and noted that Saudi Arabia’s participation in world’s largest refinery and strategic petroleum reserve will take their energy relationship beyond that of buyer and seller.

Modi said that the two countries have a common interest in ensuring peace and stability in West Asia and the Gulf.

“Today in our talks, there was agreement on accelerating mutual cooperation and partnership in this area,” he said.

The two countries also agreed that strong relations in counter-terrorism, ocean and cyber security will be mutually beneficial, he said.

He said the two countries have also decided to increase and expand their defence cooperation in the context of their strategic environment.

Modi said that e-visa facility for Saudi nationals is being expanded to boost trade and tourism and thanked Prince Salman for the increase in Haj quota for Indians.

He welcomed Saudi Arabia’s participation in International Solar Alliance.

“Peaceful use of nuclear energy, specially for water desalination and health will be another aspect of our cooperation,” he said.

 

India, Saudi
Modi said Saudi Arabia was among the most important strategic partners of India in the 21st century. Pixabay

He said presence of 2.7 million Indians in Saudi Arabia is an important link in bilateral ties. “You have always kept their welfare in mind and for this, their gratitude and good wishes are with you,” Modi said.

Earlier, the Crown Prince, who is on his first state visit to India, received a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here.

 

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He told the media that the ties between India and the Arabian Peninsula “is in our DNA”.

“With the leadership of the President and the Prime Minister, I am sure we can create good things for Saudi Arabia and India,” he said.

Prince Mohammed arrived in the capital on Tuesday for a two-day visit and was received by Modi at the Palam airport. (IANS)