Reduce human load to save Taj: Historian R. Nath

By Brij Khandelwal,

Agra : Unless drastic measures are intiated to manage pressing crowds at the Taj Mahal and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is not fundamentally restructured to respond to new challenges, the 365-year-old, world-famous monument to love could be in serious trouble, eminent Mughal historian and author R. Nath has warned.

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He has written to the union Culture Minister Shripad Naik drawing his attention to the problems and demanded the early bifurcation of the ASI in two segments: conservation and administration.

Giving details of his memorandum, Nath told IANS on phone from Ajmer, where he has shifted from Agra: “I have drawn the government’s attention to the alarming increase in the human load on the fragile white marble monument. While we have been facing the insurmountable problem of the Taj Mahal gradually sinking into the river, the new age has created a new danger to its existence which calls for urgent action by the authorities.”

“There are around six million visitors annually, add to this those who enter without tickets or on resold tickets, five free annual holidays and free entrants on Fridays, plus under 15 children for whom entry is free, and you come to an astounding figure of one crore (10 million),” Nath added.

This phenomenal increase in the number of visitors has created new problems which were not there in the first decade of the 20th century when the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904, was promulgated by the British government or in the 1950s when its revised, enlarged and updated version, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1950 was enacted, he said.

The new problems, according to Nath, are “this huge crowd is putting immense pressure on the monument standing precariously on the edge of the river bank. This its builders had not anticipated. The Taj cannot be supposed to bear this burden ad infinitum. Periodical replacement of the pavemental stones is no solution.”

Nath, a former head of Rajasthan University’s history department, pointed out that the ASI “is manned by only technical persons with expertise in conservation and it cannot be expected to manage and administer crowds or the problems related to them”.

The time has come, Nath said, to work on the bifurcation of the ASI.

“While ASI archaeologists may continue to look after conservation, a separate and autonomous entity, Taj Corporation, must be incorporated for the administration. The corporation may be headed by a director or a chief administrative officer assisted by subsidiary staff, including a chief security officer from the armed forces preferably not below the rank of colonel with at least 4,000 trained personnel of a proposed Taj Police Force.”

Nath warned that if timely changes were not made “the Taj Mahal will have to pay the price sooner than later of our intellectual stasis, incompetence, arrogance or lethargy, whatever it is.”

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at [email protected])