Fed up, SC tells govt: Restore Taj Mahal, or raze it

Fed up, SC tells govt: Restore Taj Mahal, or raze it

NEW DELHI: Expressing deep anguish over the “apathy” of the
Centre, UP government and other authorities towards preserving the
Taj Mahal, the
Supreme Court on Wednesday gave an ultimatum to the government—either restore the pristine beauty of the Taj or demolish it.

The court has been monitoring preservation of the world heritage site for 31 years and has passed a slew of orders from time to time for preservation of the monument. But the court’s efforts seem to be futile with the Taj being damaged by rising pollution levels. The monument is becoming green and blue in patches, which is attributed to rising pollution and poor maintenance. As the Centre and UP failed to give a blueprint to save the Taj, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said: “It is sheer apathy. You are absolutely not bothered about it.”

SC told the Centre: “You can shut down the Taj. You can demolish it if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided … No action plan or vision document has come yet. Either you demolish it (Taj) or you restore it.” The SC decided to hear the case on day-to-day basis to bring the hearing to a logical conclusion for protection of the monument.

It also noted that the authorities were allowing expansion of industrial units in the vicinity of Taj Mahal which could add to the pollution. The court summoned the chairman of Taj Trapezium Zone and Commissioner of Agra to be present before it to explain why industrial units were coming up in the area in violation of its order.

The SC had restrained the authorities from allowing establishment of industrial units and also barred cutting of tree without its permission in Taj Trapezium Zone — a 10,400 sq km trapezium-shaped area covering five districts of the Agra region.

Drawing parallel with Paris’ Eiffel Tower, the SC said it remained preserved despite attracting eight time more tourists in comparison to the Taj. It directed the Centre to file an affidavit in two weeks giving details of what has been done for protection of the Taj and what it intended to do in future. Noting that ASI had failed to protect Taj Mahal, the SC had earlier raised questions whether ASI could be relieved of the task to manage the affairs of the monument. It had said that ASI was not properly discharging its duty in maintaining the beauty of the Taj and asked the Centre to consider whether some other organisation be given the responsibility to protect the 17th century heritage.