TNN Bureau. Updated: 8/3/2018 2:33:14 PM Edit and Opinion

The Supreme Court has many times expressed displeasure over the failure of the Centre and the UP government to preserve and protect the Taj Mahal. After again pulling up both, the court recently named three officials as nodal officers in charge of the upkeep and maintenance of the monument which has badly suffered from environmental pollution.

Every time the court has had hearings on petitions seeking its help to restore the Taj, it has had harsh words for the UP and central governments and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), which manages the monument. Last week, it criticised the UP government for submitting to it a voluminous draft plan for restoration, which the court rightly said it could not wade through.

In any case, the court does not have the expertise to judge the usefulness of the plan. But it was noted that court orders over the decades and widespread public demands and concern had not prompted governments to take effective action to stop the degradation of the Taj. The draft plan itself mentioned that the court’s order in 1996 to stop pollution from the industrial units in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) — about 10,400 sqkm area around it — had not been implemented.

The fumes from the Mathura refinery and the polluting material from other sources have affected the texture and colour of the Taj and they continue to pose a chemical threat. More industries have come up in the area in the last two decades, with neither the Centre nor the state government trying to curb the pollution. There are other problems, like the burning of wood and bodies in nearby crematoria and the rise in population of midges in the polluted Yamuna, which settle on the monument and discolour it. While no serious action has been taken about these, proposals like restriction on construction activity in the nearby areas, curbs on the use of petrol and diesel and the planting of more trees have not been implemented.

In frustration, the court told the governments that they could shut down or even demolish the Taj if they could not preserve it. The attitude of UP’s BJP government to the Taj has been controversial, and even hostile. It considers the Taj as a Muslim monument and has shown that it is not interested in protecting it from pollution and the vagaries of weather. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath once said that the Taj was not a part of Indian heritage. He withdrew the statement, but then a BJP MLA, Sangeeth Som, said the monument is a “blot on Indian culture’’, and a party spokesman said it is a “symbol of barbarism’’. Can Taj’s beauty survive such beastliness?

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