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SC slams ASI for not protecting Taj Mahal

IANS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for not being able to protect the iconic Taj Mahal and asked about the steps being taken to prevent the Mughal structure from being destroyed by insects and algae.

A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta was concerned after the ASI told it that the Taj Mahal was getting infected by insects which breed in the stagnant water of the Yamuna river that flows by the monument.

The ASI, which is in-charge of maintaining and repairing monuments, also told the bench that algae are a “big problem” and all those monuments which are on the river bank faces similar issues.

The bench asked how could the algae reach the higher reaches of the Taj Mahal. The ASI replied: “It flew there.”

“Can algae fly,” asked the court.

The ASI also told the court that the Taj Mahal floor at several places was dirty, because all the people walking on it do not use socks.

“We provide socks only to the VIPs, others use their own socks,” it told the court. The Taj floor was also getting discoloured.

The bench pulled up the ASI saying the situation would not have been so if it had taken steps to prevent it.

“The problem is that the ASI is not willing to accept that there is a problem. This situation would not have arisen if the ASI had done its job. We are surprised with the way the ASI is defending itself,” the top court said.

“Perhaps we need to examine solution to prevent the decay of the Taj Mahal without the ASI,” the bench said.

Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was already considering the top court’s suggestion to appoint international experts to look into the issue of protection and preservation of the 17th century mausoleum.

The Uttar Pradesh government said it would place before the court a draft of vision document on protection and preservation of the Taj Mahal that was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

The government said it was also trying to take care of the environment around the structure so that the historic monument could be there for another 400 years and not just for a generation.

The Centre said it would consider the top court’s suggestion to take the assistance of Indian experts or from abroad to see the extent of damage and whether it could be reversed and the steps that could be taken to check them.

The court has been hearing a plea filed by environmentalist M.C. Mehta seeking protection of the Taj from the ill-effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area.