India's latest plan to attract more tourists: closing the Taj Mahal

ON THE threshold of "Visit India Year", the Taj Mahal, the most popular monument in the country, and far and away the biggest magnet for foreign tourists, may be forced to close.

A senior officer of the Archeological Survey of India, the state body responsible for the upkeep of ancient monuments, has recommended an immediate ban. "Visitors can easily appreciate the beauty of the Taj from the lawns outside the monument," D V Sharma, a survey superintendent, was quoted as saying from Agra, the location of the Taj. "There is no need to go inside."

He went on: "The structure of the Taj Mahal has been irreparably damaged. The marble steps are worn out and delicate carvings as well as fine inlays of precious stones have been damaged. If thousands continue to enter the monument ... the damage to the Taj will be irreversible. Hence further entry inside the monument has to be banned immediately."

It is a verdict that will send shivers of fear through the ranks of the hoteliers and tour operators who depend for their living on the 10 million visitors, 1.5 million of them foreigners, who stream through Shah Jahan's sublime mausoleum for his wife every year. It is also a flat contradiction of a report in the spring by the ASI and two other bodies. In April, Christian Manhart, a research specialist of Unesco, one of the organisations involved, said: "There is no danger to the Taj. It is a monument that, with its 8-metre thick walls, has been constructed for eternity." This view was endorsed then by an ASI official, A C Grover. "The Taj is in excellent condition," he said.

The suspicion of the cynical must be that the ASI would like to close the Taj because it would be much less trouble than keeping it open. Set up in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham, a colonel in the Royal Engineers, and given its most forceful thrust by Lord Curzon 40 years later, the ASI has seen better days. It is not just the pitiful Rs200 million (pounds 2.9m) budget, which is all it has to preserve an entire subcontinent full of monuments. The ASI is seen by some as a comfortable sinecure. "Instead of installing a professional cadre and allowing them avenues of growth," The Indian Express editorialised in September, "the ASI has become another fiefdom for Indian Administrative Officers to exploit."

Of India's 3,597 monuments, only 100 have been the subject of thorough reports. Some of the most important buildings in the country are falling apart. In September, a two-ton stone slab fell from the fabulous Sun Temple in Konarak, Orissa. The ASI said it had to wait for a report by Unesco before taking action. Near the Taj, and on the same tourist route, the wonderful, abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri is slowly being demolished by explosions set off by sandstone miners nearby. Until June, mining was going on inside the fort complex.

In a discussion of the significance of next year's Visit India Year, the chief civil servant of the Tourism Ministry, M P Bezbaruah, acknowledged that India only receives 2.37 million foreign visitors a year, less than one tenth of the number who go to China, but he took heart from the fact that those who do come spend more.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Ceiling and Flooring - £26,000 OTE

£26000 per annum + pension + career progression: h2 Recruit Ltd: An excellent ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - Credit Reports - £100,000 OTE

£50000 - £100000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Meetings & Events (MICE) - £40,000 OTE

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achieving...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager -Business Intelligence Software- £100,000 OTE

£50000 - £100000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game