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The Supreme Court on Wednesday, July 11 slammed the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government for failing to take steps for protecting the Taj Mahal.

Observing that the issue of preserving the Taj was a “hopeless cause”, the apex court expressed anguish at the Yogi Adityanath-led government’s failure to produce a vision document to protect the iconic heritage site and warned it will “shut it down” and the authorities should “demolish or restore” the Mughal structure.

The bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak said it was “sheer lethargy” on the part of the authorities. “There is absolutely no willingness to protect the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal has to be protected. Either we will shut it down or you demolish or restore it,” the bench observed.

The court said the Taj Mahal is much more beautiful than the Eiffel Tower and could have solved the country’s foreign exchange problem. “Eighty million go to watch Eiffel Tower which looks like a TV Tower. Our Taj is more beautiful. If you had looked after it your foreign exchange problem would have been solved. Do you realise the loss caused to the country due to your apathy?” observed the bench.

The Uttar Pradesh government had earlier told the bench that it would place before the court a draft of vision document on protection and preservation of the Taj Mahal.

The court asked how is it that foundries and other polluting industries are still being allowed to function within this delicate environmental zone which was created to protect the Taj Mahal.

The court also sought personal appearance of the chairman of Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) – a 10,400 sq km area spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur in Rajasthan – to explain violation of its orders prohibiting expansion of industrial units in the zone.

The Uttar Pradesh government had 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 SC was hearing a petition that called for proper maintenance of the Taj Mahal, which attracts thousands of tourists from around the world every year. A bench of Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta said no concrete steps have been taken by the state government, despite a parliamentary standing committee report on Taj’s protection. The bench asked the Centre to furnish details of what has been done and what is required to protect the monument.

The Centre, in its response, told the court that researchers from IIT Kanpur are assessing the source of pollution in and around the Taj, and will submit its reports in four months. It added that a special committee has been set up for the cause.

Earlier this year, the SC had blamed the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) for its failure to take appropriate steps to protect the monument. It had also observed that Taj Mahal’s white marble turned yellow due to the pollution.

Saying it would hear the case next on July 31 on a day-to-day basis, the bench told the Centre to furnish full details of the steps taken and action it intends to take for protecting the Taj Mahal.

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