Agra, Aug 3: With a thousand odd illegal structures demolished in a fortnight, the city of the Taj Mahal is truly getting a facelift.
A new bridge over the Yamuna awaits a formal opening. Work on the 305-km Agra-Lucknow Expressway has picked up momentum. Work is set to finish before the deadline next year.
Work on an inner city Ring Road that will link the Yamuna Expressway with the Taj Mahal area and to the Agra-Mumbai road across the river has also gathered pace.
The Uttar Pradesh government is keen that a proposed Metro project for Agra also starts before the year ends.
At the Taj, turnstile gates, e-ticketing, work on a new facilitation centre, a Rs.160 crore project to streamline and upgrade facilities meant for tourists around the monument are at varying degrees of progress.
The 17th century Taj is India's biggest tourist draw.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav "is keen that Agra becomes truly worthy of the Taj and wants all pending infrastructure projects to be completed before 2017", Roli Tiwari Mishra, a member of the state's Uttar Pradesh Women's Commission, told IANS.
Included in the list of a dozen proposed smart cities in the state, Agra, located 200 km south of New Delhi, is also witnessing a major anti-encroachment drive that has already seen many illegal structures razed in the old city.
Hotelier Surendra Sharma recalled: "Nothing like this has happened in the city since the dark days of Emergency when we saw huge edifices come tumbling down to make way for the Mahatma Gandhi Road."
Agra Magistrate Rekha S. Chauhan and her army of demolishers show no mercy as all illegal projections, ramps on drains and extensions are razed without bias.
Backed by municipal corporation officials armed with old maps, they have cut to size politicians and powerful industrialists.
The drive will continue till September-end. Residents hope that Agra will start breathing easy then.