New Delhi/Agra, June 22: Union tourism and culture minister Jagmohan spent almost the whole of Sunday touring Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal to get a first-hand feel for problems relating to their upkeep, but he skipped visiting the work site of the controversial heritage corridor project linking the two. The minister had similarly gone on an inspection trip of Delhi’s Humayun’s Tomb and Qutab Minar some weeks ago. During the visit, he announced an additional Rs 1-crore grant for the upkeep of the Taj Mahal. Later, speaking to reporters, the minister said the Centre had forced the Uttar Pradesh government to stop work on the Taj heritage project because it was in “total violation” of laws, particularly the 1958 Ancient Monuments Act and the Environment Protection Act.
He said no approval had been sought for the project from any of the concerned authorities and no letter authorising it had been issued by any agency of the Union government. Mr Jagmohan said: “You can’t interfere in the flow of the river as this is something fraught with dangerous consequences. In the case of the corridor project, the attempt to divert the flow of the Jamuna could result in the flooding of the Mehtab Bagh across the river from the Taj and the backflow could damage the Taj itself.”
When told that work on the project had been going on in full swing for the last eight months and that UP chief secretary D.S. Bagga had himself given the green signal for it at a meeting of divisional officials in Agra in August last year, Mr Jagmohan said he did not want to comment as the matter concerned the state administration.
He said he had come to know about the corridor project only after reading a newspaper report last Sunday. Asked how the work of eight months would be undone to restore the status quo now that the project had been stopped, Mr Jagmohan said this was something for the state government to look into. Mr Jagmohan also said he was exploring the possibility of making the 500th anniversary of the founding of Agra (in 1504) a big event next year, and to climax it with having the award ceremony of the Aga Khan Foundation at Agra Fort, where Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan had languished as a prisoner and gazed at his 17th century while-marbled symbol of love.
He said the foundation had done much for the restoration of Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi and had set up a Rs 20-crore architecture award, to be given every three years. The minister said he had chosen Agra Fort as the venue for the next award ceremony, in preference to Delhi’s Red Fort.