On Wednesday, October 4, 2017, the India Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, Annie Gowen, asked on Twitter whether India is “neglecting” its “iconic Taj Mahal because it was built by Muslims”. The tweet refers to her article published in the paper with the same words for its headline.
Coming in the context of the ongoing controversy around the Taj Mahal and the Uttar Pradesh government, not only is this tweet provocative and on a sensitive subject but it also appears to be factually ignorant.
First of all, the Taj Mahal is an ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) monument as well as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Since the ASI is affiliated to the Union Ministry of Culture, it is the Central government within whose remit the monument falls, regardless of where it is located in India.
Therefore, to answer the allegation or implication of neglect, let us look at what the Centre has been doing vis-à-vis the conservation, preservation, maintenance and environmental needs of the Taj Mahal. The expenditure on the Taj Mahal in the first two full years of the current administration at the Centre is given below:
2014-15: Rs 442.40 lakh
2015-16: Rs 366.60 lakh
To compare the full expenditure figures above for the first two full years of the current administration with those of the last years of the last administration, let us check the figures below:
2013-14: Rs 314.17 lakh
2012-13: Rs 126.5 lakh
2011-12: Rs 129 lakh
Additionally, if we look at the expenditure incurred on the Agra circle itself, we find that in 2013-14 (the last year of the previous administration), Rs 957.97 lakh was spent. Whereas, under the current administration, Rs 1,404.99 lakh was spent in 2014-15 and Rs 1,270 lakh in 2015-16. Needless to say, the Taj Mahal is the centrepiece of the Agra circle.
Therefore, the data on expenditure itself belies the allegation implied in Gowen’s tweet that India is neglecting the Taj Mahal.
Additionally, we need to also consider the whole gamut of projects underway or sanctioned at the Taj Mahal. While conservation, maintenance and environmental protection would be the primary and continuous focus of activity at a monument as significant as the Taj Mahal, there are numerous other schemes and projects commissioned in the last three years which too ought to find mention.
- For example, the Taj Mahal figures very prominently in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, with the ASI signing an MoU with ONGC and the Ministry of Tourism to clean the Taj Mahal.
- Scientific cleaning and Preservation of different structural members of Taj Mahal have been in progress during the period.
- The WiFi facility was launched on June 16, 2015.
- The Taj Mahal is one of the 25 monuments identified by the ASI under the Adarsh Smarak Scheme for upgradation of tourist related amenities.
After the controversy erupted over the reported omission of the Taj Mahal from the Uttar Pradesh government’s tourism brochure, the state government itself had reportedly clarified that Rs 156 crore has been set aside for projects concerning the Taj Mahal. Be that as it may, scribes ought to first remember that the Taj Mahal is a national monument, in the Centre’s jurisdiction. And what the Centre has been doing for the monument in recent years appears to be clearly represented in the figures quoted above.