Agra, Aug 19: A new problem has taken over the city of Taj Mahal in the form of petty thieves who have a peculiar fancy for flower pots and saplings. They target salons, mobile phone shops, dentists' clinics and even scrap dealers. The "green thieves" are not even sparing government saplings planted across the city for beautification.
When residents of some upscale colonies complained to the authorities a few days back that new saplings were disappearing, nobody took them seriously.
"This is amazing. When I got up around 4 am and looked from the temple balcony towards the newly-developed site across the Ambedkar Setu, I found the picture incomplete. Something looked amiss. I came down to have a closer view and to my horror, I realised the huge flower pots were missing," Nandan Shrotriya, priest of the Mathuradheesh temple, told IANS.
"On inquiry, I learnt a truck with some people had come to take the flower pots away. Only three days ago, Agra District Magistrate Zuhair Bin Saghir had inaugurated the site, which provides such a magnificent view of the Etmauddaula tomb across the river," he said.
Citizens of Agra voluntary group convener Harvijay Bahia, who worked hard to beautify the area, and Ashok Jain, who installed two solar panels, expressed shock.
"How could somebody do this," said Bahia.
"Obviously, the huge flower pots must be somewhere in the city. We have to look for them and we need police protection. At this rate, voluntary agencies would be discouraged from taking up greening efforts," he said.
Dinesh Pandey, an official of the state forest department, has complained to the police and a search has been launched.
Theft of saplings has been reported from many other areas.
"It's easy to plant saplings, but you need committed volunteers to look after them and tend them like kids. The NGOs generally fail in this task," said green activist Shishir Bhagat.
The problem is that a whole tribe of petty thieves that has raided the city, residents said.
"On Saturday night, a barber's salon, a mobile phone shop, a dentist's clinic and a scrap dealer's shop were burgled for whatever the culprits could lay their hands on, including flower pots," said social activist Sudheir Gupta.