Agra, Jan 24:
Conservationists here have opposed a government proposal to open the Taj Mahal on its weekly off Friday to those who pay $100 or Rs.5,000.
Agra Divisional Commissioner Pradeep Bhatnagar said a new proposal has been forwarded to allow entry to the protected monument on a holiday at a meeting of officials Thursday evening. The ASI officials also attended the meeting.
Talking to IANS, the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) chief N.K. Pathak said: “We did attend the meeting. The proposal will undergo due processes of law and the notifications as well as clearance from the DG (of the ASI) will be taken into account.”
An expert committee headed by S. Vardarajan in 1993 had recommended a weekly holiday to keep the monument shut.
“…six million visitors officially saw the Taj last year and the actual number is close to ten million, taking into account the free entrants (entry is free for under 15 years).
“Also, there are six to seven days in a year when entry is free for everyone. Why do they want to kill the world heritage monument?” asked Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
Sharma said there should be restriction on the number of visitors who visit the Taj Mahal daily.
Mughal historian R. Nath told IANS on phone from Ajmer: “Who is the commissioner of Agra to take such a drastic policy stand. The Archaeological Survey of India is an independent body with its own Act that clearly lays down the guidelines for maintenance, entrance tickets and all the details.”
“How can a group of people in Agra take a decision like this,” he asked.