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The Taj Mahal is under threat with even its pristine white turning green and brown, prompting the Supreme Court to pull up the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Wednesday, May 9 for failing to take appropriate steps to protect and preserve the monument that is listed as a world one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage by UNESCO.

Expressing concern over Taj Mahal being infected by insects, the apex court asked the authorities, including the ASI, what steps they have taken to prevent this.

“This situation would not have arisen if the ASI had done its job. We are surprised at the way the ASI is defending itself. You (Central government) please consider if the ASI is needed there or not,” a bench of Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta told Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, who was appearing for the Centre.

The SC asked the ASI about the status of the directions given by it on the previous hearing and whether it was heeded or not. The SC asked ASI: “According to you, Taj Mahal is fine.”

The ASI replied: “We are doing our best. The photos which were presented before the court were before the cleaning of the Taj and those were of the floors.”

Justice Lokur objected it by saying: “You provide the visitors, shoes to be put up, then how the colours of the floors has been changed. That means you provide dirty shoes to the visitors. You say that all is well. How can you say that? Is this the stand of ASI on Taj?”

“The floor in parts of the Taj is dirty because of people walking there.  We don’t give socks to everyone, only those who don’t have, the rest go in their own socks,” said ASI.

The counsel for ASI told the court that the problem of insects was due to stagnation of water of river Yamuna.

Meanwhile, Nadkarni told the bench that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was considering the SC’s suggestion to appoint international experts to look into the issue of protection and preservation of the Taj Mahal.

In the previous hearing, the bench had asked the Centre whether Taj was getting discoloured after the petitioner had showed the pictures of Taj having changed its colour. The bench while expressing displeasure had directed the Centre to take the help of Indian experts or from abroad to see the magnitude of damage and if it can be corrected.

The matter was listed for next hearing to July.

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