New Delhi, March 9: Australian captain Michael Clarke enjoyed a day off in Agra visiting the Taj Mahal along with his wife Kyly, this week. He avoided other monuments in Agra and he should as the heritage city is in the shambles in spite of periodic bouts of release of concern and funds by the politicians.
Even the ongoing convention of Unesco experts on 'visual integrity' of world heritage monuments is not going to save the city from the apathy of administration including the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and the disdain of the public.
The four-day convention of Unesco experts began in Agra on Wednesday with no show by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Union Minister of Culture Chandresh Kumari Katoch, even for the inaugural ceremony.
The city of the Taj has numerous monuments which come under the protected list. Due to administrative indifference and corruption, no action has been taken against people, building houses and places of worship around these monuments.
The Unesco meet will raise questions about the Agra's heritage structures but in vain. The ASI has failed abjectly in controlling the spread of encroachments, which threaten even historical monuments.
Almost all Mughal monuments are threatened by the encroachments. The levels of proliferation was such that the very survival of some monuments is now at stake. While restricting space and cluttering up and they destroy the beauty of the historical buildings.
Some land marks are being used as cowsheds, or as havens for anti-social elements.
The Taj Mahal has been saved because of the Supreme Court judgments seeking its conservation, however, lesser known monuments are under constant threat.
Near the Raja Mandi railway station, the majestic Delhi Gate structure is threatened by new construction. The district authorities have failed to act against the encroachers.
The famed Fatehpur Sikri complex, build by emperor Akbar, faces threats of cracks and destruction due by the illegal mining. This continues despite the Supreme Court's categorical directive to district authorities to stop mining in the area. Fatehpur Sikri's monuments such as the western fortification wall and Buland Darwaja have been irreparably damaged due to sandstone quarrying.
Other historical buildings or remnants like Jodhabai's Chatri, Jaswant Singh ki Chatri, Chini ka Roza, Humayun's mosque, Maraiam's tomb, Babar's Ram Bagh, Barahkhambha, and scores of other valuable architectural pieces are under threat, as encroachments creep up on every inch of space.
The ASI has been sending letters to the Agra Development Authority pointing out how the Monuments Protection Act, 1958, was being flagrantly violated but with no response. The ADA is responsible for ensuring there were no new constructions around these buildings.
On its part, the ASI has circulated a list of about 50 monuments in Agra which come under the purview of the Monuments Protection Act.
If the chief minister does not show interest, the local authority will remain unaffected.
What does the law say?
The protection of the monuments is also the responsibility of the National Monuments Authority (NMA). The centre constituted the NMA and designated the commissioner of Agra as the competent authority for 24 districts of Western Uttar Pradesh, to prevent unauthorized construction activity in and around protected monuments.
Under the amendments effected in 2011 to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, a minimum of 100 metres, beginning from the boundary limit of the protected monument, is specified as "prohibited area", beyond which, in all directions, a minimum of 200 metres is categorized as "regulated area".
The residents in the protected area cannot raise any construction and carry repair work without the permission of the NMA.
The Taj mahal could be saved but Agra cannot be forsaken to the indifference.