Thursday July 18, 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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Taj Mahal: Honey Bees at Historical Monument Alarm Tourists

A proposal with estimates of expenditure is pending at the headquarters for some months

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Though many complaints have been lodged by the visitors in the past, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has not taken the threat seriously. Pixabay

Honey bees at the iconic Taj Mahal and other historical monuments in the city continue to alarm tourists.

Though many complaints have been lodged by the visitors in the past, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has not taken the threat seriously, according to the tourist guides.

ASI sources said that a proposal with estimates of expenditure is pending at the headquarters for some months.

A local resident has even complained to the Ministry of Culture, demanding the immediate removal of beehives at the Taj which pose a threat to the safety of tourists.

Taj Mahal, Honey Bees, Historical
Honey bees at the iconic Taj Mahal and other historical monuments in the city continue to alarm tourists. Pixabay

Tourist guide Ved Gautam told IANS that beehives have always been there but precautionary measures were taken to ensure the safety of the visitors.

The one at the Mehmankhana (guest house) on the east side of Taj Mahal has always been there, as also the one at the entrance gate of Akbar’s tomb, Gautam said.

Old timers recalled several attacks by bees, which caused panic. Only last year, bees attacked visitors at the royal gate entrance to the Taj Mahal.

“Bees attack only when there is serious provocation from someone. In normal circumstances, they mind their own business,” a retired ASI staffer said.

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Not just bees, dogs and monkeys also continue to be a major nuisance at the Taj. Few days ago, photos of stray dogs loitering in the Taj were widely circulated on social media. Last year, there was a huge controversy over some CISF personnel being given catapult training to shoo away the simians. (IANS)