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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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Oli Assures Modi, Nepal’s Territory Won’t Be Used Against India’s Interests

After assuming office in February, Oli made his first foreign visit to India in April.

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Gokhale said that Modi's two-day visit to Nepal was aimed to strengthen bilateral relations
KP Sharma Oli, PM of Nepal, wikimedia commons

Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has told his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi that Nepal’s territory will not be used against New Delhi’s interests, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said here on Saturday.

“Oli reiterated that they will be sensitive to our concerns and their territory will not be allowed to be used by anybody against India. Prime Minister Modi reciprocated the sentiments,” Gokhale told the media.

Gokhale called Oli’s view “very significant”.

There was a chill in India-Nepal ties during Oli’s earlier stint as Prime Minister between October 2015 and August 2016 when a border blockade blamed on New Delhi crippled Nepal’s economy.

There were also perceptions that Oli was leaning towards China than India.

Gokhale said that Modi’s two-day visit to Nepal was aimed to strengthen bilateral relations “whether it be cross-border electricity or cross-border connectivity”.

“We are looking into cross-border electricity and cross-border connectivity not only with Nepal but other neighbouring countries as well,” he said.

After assuming office in February, Oli made his first foreign visit to India in April.

Stating that India welcomed the restoration of democracy in Nepal, Gokhale said that both the government and the opposition in the Himalayan nation were parties to it.

He said both sides agreed to be committed towards the stated projects. “We will address this within a set timeline.”

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of service to others in his last Mann Ki Baat edition for 2017.
Modi is on Nepal visit for two days, wikimedia commons

According to Gokhale, Oli confirmed to Modi that Nepal will host the the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) summit this year.

Bimstec comprises seven countries lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Gokhale also said that Modi’s visits to cultural sites in Nepal “suggested that there should be strong people-to-people ties”.

Apart from offering prayers at temples in Nepal, the Indian leader inaugurated the Janakpur-Ayodhya bus service, a 900 MW hydropower project and announced Rs 100-crore aid to develop Janakpur city.

Also Read: Water Crisis is Increasing in Cape Town, Red Alert For Africa 

He also held extensive discussions with Oli, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and other government officials to better bilateral ties after which he said: “All misunderstandings with Nepal are over.”

Modi also met leaders of opposition parties, starting with former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and other members of the Nepali Congress.

He exchanged views on strengthening bilateral ties with former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”. (IANS)