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Maya let off but Taj in a dire strait


Prarthna Gahilote,CNN-IBN
Jun 06, 2007 at 01:13pm IST

Agra: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati can heave a sigh of relief after Governor T V Rajeshwar didn't allow a CBI probe into the Taj Corridor scam. But the corridor still occupies the banks of the river Yamuna in Agra and is an ugly contrast to the splendour of the Taj Mahal.

The Taj corridor falls in the line of Shahjahan's vision, as that is what the ruler, who loved the splendour of the monument, would have seen from captivity in Agra fort.

The corridor is nothing short of devastation on the banks of the river four years after the previous Mayawati government conceived of the environmentally disastrous beautification plan. After the Governor refused a CBI probe on Tuesday, the Taj Mahal still overlooks a 20-feet high mound, a mix of ugly concrete and sand on the Yamuna.

The project was since shelved but what remains is the debris of a defunct project and the fading signs of the precincts of two World Heritage Sites.

Also, there are no signs of the Yamuna as most of it has been filled up. What remains is a half-dried stinking drain full of the city's wastes. Polythene and plastic wastes have choked the water body and local residents use it as a grazing ground for their cattle.

The mound itself provides proof of the Taj Corridor Project – broken rock and sand from the site work is strewn everywhere and on the sides are the remains of the wall.

In four years red tape rolled out by the bureaucracy in Lucknow and Delhi has blocked a cleaning drive.

“The courts had told us to green the area but we told them that we have no manpower to do that. The court now has to get the forest department to do the job. We can only help in advising on what trees should be planted,” DG, Archaeological Survey of India, C Babu Rajeev said.

The Taj riverfront forms the buffer zone for the World Heritage Sites of both the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal while the riverfront comes under the jurisdiction of the ASI.

The Supreme Court had told the ASI to green the area. And UNESCO guidelines for World Heritage Sites say that maintenance of buffer zones is compulsory and any violation can amount to a disqualification. But little of that matters.

“It isn't just one department's job. It’s a national issue. In Agra we need a lot of permissions to do anything, it is not easy,” Joint Director, UP Tourism, D K Burman said.

With no solution in sight, this eyesore has permanently scarred the surroundings of the monument. Mayawati might have been let off the hook but someone will still have to do the clean up, if for nothing then to keep Shahjahan's picture of love alive in its glory.

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