Amid criticism for allegedly ignoring the Taj Mahal in its tourism plans, Uttar Pradesh tourism minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi today said the monument was “our cultural heritage”.

Her comments came after reports in some sections of the media yesterday said that the Taj Mahal — one of the seven wonders of the world — had been excluded in the latest booklet issued by the state tourism department.

“Taj Mahal is our cultural heritage and occupies a place among the world’s famous tourist places,” the 68-year-old minister said.

In an official statement issued by the UP government, Joshi said, “Holistic development of the cultural heritage and that of infrastructural facilities is the priority of the state government.”

She said that under the 370-crore World Bank-aided tourism scheme, in which the state and the bank will have a 30:70 funding share, there is a plan to “alleviate poverty and create employment” through tourism-related activities in Agra and Braj.

“UP government is working to launch metro rail in Agra and efforts are being made to develop the city under the Smart City Mission. These efforts will give it a new identity on the tourism map,” she said

Joshi said the state government is exploring options of tapping the enormous tourism potential and develop the tourist spots in a “world-class manner”.