The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scanner on state of Taj

Lucknow, June 22: Fresh from a visit to Agra, Union tourism minister Jagmohan has ordered a study to establish whether the Taj Mahal was damaged by construction in the heritage zone.

The minister said work on Uttar Pradesh’s Rs 173-crore Taj Heritage Corridor project had begun without taking the Centre into confidence. Jagmohan said the project would have damaged the landscape around the Taj and the Agra Fort if it had not been stopped in time.

The minister said the Centre would conduct a separate inquiry to establish who gave the green signal to the 2-km long heritage corridor. “The entire responsibility of cleaning up the mess lies with the state government as it had kept the Centre and environmental agencies in the dark about this project,” he said. Jagmohan added that the project should never be revived.

The minister said all closed monuments inside the Agra Fort, including the Sheesh Mahal, would be opened, but separate tickets would have to be bought for the attractions.

He said Rs 7.50 crore would be released for the conservation of the Taj and the fort and another Rs 7.50 crore for Fatehpur Sikri.

Jagmohan today visited the project site on the Yamuna river bed. He said any construction so close to a World Heritage monument was prohibited and was surprised how the project was allowed to be undertaken when it violated all norms by the Archaeological Survey of India and the Centre.

Top officials here remained silent over the probe ordered by Mayavati to pinpoint the culprits behind the lapse.

After first announcing that chief secretary D.S. Bagga would conduct the inquiry, the chief minister later appointed his junior, principal secretary (finance), Naveen Chandra Bajpai, to head the probe.

Some bureaucrats feel Bagga’s appointment will result in a cover-up as the project had been approved at a board meeting headed by him.

“Now that the state government denies having any knowledge of the project, what can a junior officer do when his seniors are likely to be involved,” a senior IAS officer asked.

He pointed out that Central representatives were also present at the meeting when a detailed presentation on the project was made by officials.

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