By Utpal Borpujari
The Congress-led UPA governmnet and the Mayawati-led BSP government might not see eye to eye on many issues, but they seem to agree on one thing – that the dirty surroundings of the Taj Mahal, India’s most famous monument, need to be cleaned up.
The result is that the Ministry of Tourism and the UP Department of Tourism have joined hands to find out ways to spruce up the tourist amenities in Agra and work towards developing a cleaner Agra, especially the area that surrounds the monument of love.
Among the steps to make tourist entry easier there, the Ministry of Tourism has mooted the idea of airport style multiple-entry counters with zigzag queues replacing the lone entry point at the east gate of the Taj. Similar facilities might also be developed at the west gate too, which currently has no facilities.
The need to spruce up the Taj has been felt more strongly because of the Commonwealth Games next year, during which a huge number of foreign tourists are expected to descend on the region.
Highly-placed Tourism Ministry sources , explaining the long-standing need to clean up the Taj surroundings, says that though 25 lakh tourists from within and outside the country visit the monument every year, not much thought was being given to the upkeep of the surroundings.
“They are in mess, with tourists having to trudge through cowdung and slush, while there are no signage indicating where left luggage counters are, where toilets are,” the sources say.
The Centre is working with the UP Tourism Department, the Agra Development Authority on several ideas to change and improve things, they say. This includes, among others, the possibility of having ticket and left luggage counters at the Shilpgram, which is also visited by almost all tourists visiting the Taj.
“There could also be Taj entry ticket counters and counters where tourists can book registered guides at the Agra railway station itself,” the sources say.
To improve security and prevent people from doing “untoward” incidents, walkie talkie toting personnel would also soon be moving around the Taj complex.