Shukla Taj


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Politics of the Taj Corridor project

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Shukla Taj

  1. 1. South Asian Studies Association Brown Bag Radio The following slides accompany a live webcast/podcast and are part of the South Asian Studies Association’s Brown Bag Radio initiative. Information on SASA can be found at . BBR podcasts are archived at . Slide shows are the intellectual property of their respective presenters.
  2. 2. Dr. A. C. Shukla (India) Visiting Scholar Eastern Washington University
  3. 3. Outline of the Presentation <ul><li>Taj Mahal – an architectural marvel and icon of eternal love </li></ul><ul><li>Colonialism and its legacy in Postcolonial India </li></ul><ul><li>Politics of the environment versus development </li></ul><ul><li>Implications of geographical and environmental transformation on the ambience of Taj Mahal </li></ul><ul><li>Coalition Politics and its implications for the Taj Mahal </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Taj Mahal <ul><li>The Taj Mahal marvels exquisite architectural excellence and rated as one of the ‘seven wonders’ of the world. </li></ul><ul><li>The Taj Mahal is not the serene marble building alone but the aesthetic environmental ambience that evokes memories of the eternal love and rekindles a passionate desire among visitors. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Facts about the Taj Mahal <ul><li>The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. </li></ul><ul><li>The Taj was built at the cost of $ 1.36 million. </li></ul><ul><li>Built entirely in white marble, the Taj was constructed over a period of 22 years and was completed in 1647 A.D. </li></ul><ul><li>It is situated in northern India on the southern bank of the Yamuna river in Agra, about 210 km from the capital, New Delhi. </li></ul><ul><li>The mausoleum complex is hailed as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a blending of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles. </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Taj Ambience <ul><li>The Taj is not just a monument but the Taj-ecosystem is a unique geographic area, supplementing a fine intermix of people, plants, animals and riverside physical backdrop overlooking the river Yamuna beset with natural cycles that has sustained beauty of the Taj and perpetrated a feeling among global tourists to have a glimpse of this monument. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Natural Threats over time <ul><li>Seepage of water two places in the dome within few years of construction. </li></ul><ul><li>Air, Sun, other weather hazards worked over time to constantly impact the monument. </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><ul><li>A Century later Jats captured Agra, soldiers camped in the monument and burnt hay for heating. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Demolition of Miracle Marble </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>British used Taj Gardens, terrace in front for balls and frolic of honeymooning couples. They carried hammer and chisels to chip </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>off Miracle Marble and carried it as memorabilia of eternal love. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In 1830 Lord Bentinck announced demolition of monuments in Agra and Delhi to remove marble and ship it to England for auction. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Taj Wrecking Machinery was moved into the ground for demolition but a message from London informed Bentinck that the first auction of marble was failure and not worth to tear down Taj. </li></ul></ul>Historical Timeline
  9. 9. Post Colonial India and the Taj Mahal <ul><li>Mathura Refinery was constructed 25 miles from the Taj threatening Taj during Indira Gandhi's time in 1972. </li></ul><ul><li>Project Commissioned in 1982. </li></ul><ul><li>Low sulphur oxide emissions to cause “Marble Cancer” leading to a public interest litigation to protect the Taj. </li></ul><ul><li>A public interest litigation was filed with the Supreme Court to protect the Taj in 1984. </li></ul><ul><li>It was not until 1996 that the Supreme Court finally ruled that the industries in the area were actively contributing to air pollution and ordered major industrial units to install pollution control devices. </li></ul><ul><li>Implementation remained an issue. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Other developments <ul><li>Impact of pollutants on UNESCO World Ancient Heritage site-Taj was studied under technical inputs from Tecneco. </li></ul><ul><li>UNESCO declared it a world heritage site in 1983. </li></ul><ul><li>Government of India recommended Protective Measures to save the Taj and ensure minimal damage. </li></ul><ul><li>Yet Mulayam Singh government in Uttar Pradesh gave permission to hold Yoga classes on Taj platform. </li></ul><ul><li>The Central Government remained silent as the Archaeological Survey of India permitted shooting of a Jacki Chan film in Hampi complex. </li></ul><ul><li>Muslims also performed Eid Prayers on Taj & Waqf Board made claims on its land and territory. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Supreme Court Decision <ul><li>In May 2000, the Supreme Court banned cars and parking within 500 meters of the Taj’s boundary walls. </li></ul><ul><li>It ordered the shifting of about 70 shops from the precincts of the white marble mausoleum. </li></ul><ul><li>While experts agree that some of these measures have helped to improve air around the Taj, pollution levels have not dropped to safer limits as none of the factories have actually been closed down. </li></ul>
  12. 15. MAYAWATI CM of UP 2003
  13. 18. Design of the Project <ul><li>The Rs.1.75 million Taj Corridor project was to come up between two heritage monuments, the Taj and Agra Fort, along the river Yamuna, on a platform raised from scooped silt of the river. </li></ul><ul><li>According to the company assigned the task, there was a plan to construct an amusement park, malls, commercial shops, and walkways through dense wilderness to allow tourists take a leisurely stroll in moonlit nights. </li></ul><ul><li>The corridor was to begin right from Khan-e-Alam, close to the Taj Mahal, and end two kilometres towards the city behind Agra Fort. It was to be extended later to allow tourists to reach Etma- ud Daula and Ram Bagh on the other side of the river. </li></ul>
  14. 19. Baggage of Foreign Expertise <ul><li>Department of Landscape Architecture UIUC has an overseas academic component under Public Law – 480 to study archaeological sites. </li></ul><ul><li>A report on Taj attracted attention of decision makers that paved way for Taj Corridor Project in an attempt of bureaucrats to implement it and showcase the technological knowledge & foreign skills. </li></ul><ul><li>Content proposal of students was not Questioned in Agra or debated by the Government. </li></ul><ul><li>Critics contend that the recommendations of UIUC Group were Arbitrary, Casual, Superficial and based on inexperience, and lack of professional skills. </li></ul>
  15. 20. Projected Basis of Taj Corridor <ul><li>1. Developmentalist Approach of Govt & Beautification of sites. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Commercial Interests and Lobbying. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Undercutting tones of financial gains & vested interests. </li></ul>
  16. 21. Legal Framework <ul><li>No Build Zone Around protected monuments and if any build up is to be made needs Environmental Clearance. </li></ul><ul><li>Due to overwhelming protests by activists and environmentalists Jag Mohan Union Culture Minister raised the issue of preserving Taj. </li></ul><ul><li>SC ordered a CBI Enquiry into alleged irregularities in project. </li></ul><ul><li>CBI questioned officials of Finance and Environment of UP Government. </li></ul><ul><li>Enquiry against Mayawati over unaccounted money, transferred swathes prime land in strategic route and giving rights to JP company to construct Hotels along expressway. </li></ul>
  17. 22. <ul><li>The Mayawati government had projected the 160-km expressway linking Delhi’s Noida suburb with Agra as its showpiece and had even waived Rs 50 crore stamp duty on the land deal. Justice Misra’s report, however, noted that 600 acres of prime land of JIL’s choice was delivered in ‘‘undue hot haste.’’ </li></ul><ul><li>It said that this land should have been valued at some Rs 1,000 crore, but was instead valued at just about half that sum. </li></ul>
  18. 23. Aesthetic & Environmental Impacts on The Taj <ul><li>Thus ecologically fragile ecosystem seemed threatened by proposed “Taj Corridor Construction.” </li></ul><ul><li>The wide-ranging impacts of sewage, air and noise pollution would besiege the tranquility and peace of the Taj, the benchmark of its excellence. </li></ul><ul><li>The construction of the Taj Corridor, seemingly failed to integrate the monument within natural features and indigenous architectural design. </li></ul><ul><li>The Taj may look out of place in the proposed transformed natural environment totally shattering the beauty of the monument. </li></ul>
  19. 24. Undertones of Coalition Politics <ul><li>Congress, BJP, SP and BSP – Forming Power Sharing in UP and Central Govt. Each Party trying to promote party interests. </li></ul><ul><li>Mayawati’s rationale for Project sanction included: </li></ul><ul><li>1. Taj Corridor to Improve Infrastructure for tourism. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Taj Expressway to improve Transport for visitors. </li></ul>
  20. 25. Politics of the Project <ul><li>At that time Project was sanctioned by BSP the party supported NDA at centre. So Project was not objected. </li></ul><ul><li>But Union Culture Minister Jagmohan raised Objection. </li></ul><ul><li>Mayawati had to retrace her steps, but she withdrew support from BJP in centre and announced elections in retaliation to Taj Project. </li></ul><ul><li>SP came to power in UP with BJP support. </li></ul><ul><li>Raised issue and tried to fix Mayawati in the case for corruption charges and amassing wealth. </li></ul><ul><li>Then SP lost power in UP. </li></ul><ul><li>Due to changed Social Engineering of bringing Brahmins and Upper caste in party cadres by BSP and came to power in absolute majority. </li></ul><ul><li>Presently Congress led UPA in centre on SP support. </li></ul>
  21. 26. Contd. <ul><li>Local administration was unaware of the project work. </li></ul><ul><li>Despite the orders to stop work in the absence of a Detailed project Report the orders were not adhered. </li></ul><ul><li>The project was in clear contravention of the Archaeological Monuments act. </li></ul><ul><li>UNESCO raised its brows on the construction of this project in proximity of the Taj Mahal, threatening its world heritage monument status. </li></ul><ul><li>This raised government attention as this would damage India’s reputation as a culturally conscious nation. </li></ul>
  22. 27. Present Status of the Corridor <ul><li>Today, the 'corridor' is a huge heap of mud and rubbish that is being used as a graveyard to bury dead children and for depositing animal carcasses - a source of pollution for the Yamuna that flows behind the Taj. </li></ul><ul><li>The Rs.1.75 million Taj Corridor project was to come up between two heritage monuments, the Taj and Agra Fort, along the river Yamuna, on a platform raised from scooped silt of the river. </li></ul>
  23. 28. Will Mayawati Revive Taj Corridor Project <ul><li>BSP won all seats in Agra – Exoneration of Taj Corridor issue by people. </li></ul><ul><li>Supreme Court directed no dismantling of Corridor but greening it. </li></ul><ul><li>Centre went soft as BSP supported Presidential Candidate of Congress. </li></ul><ul><li>Some people feel project was victim to politics and its revival will help revive Yamuna and improve environment. </li></ul><ul><li>Expectation of more tourists due to common wealth games and diversion of tourists from Thailand to India faced with Tsunami impact. </li></ul><ul><li>This has changed scenario in favor of Corridor. </li></ul><ul><li>Will Taj Corridor Project be in same format or Alternative Project? </li></ul>
  24. 29. Alternative Green Plan <ul><li>The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has come out with a Green Plan to hide ugly construction of Shelved Taj Corridor Project and Recharge Ground water with rain water. </li></ul><ul><li>Linkage of Taj, Mahtab Bag, Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-Daula, Chini- Roza and Ram Bag by mud path with little or no construction and greening the area by Ministry of Environment. These will form an Integrated Complex with walking tracks declared as ‘Protected Area’ of monuments to ensure trespassing. </li></ul><ul><li>Due to Greening of Area the villagers using the land will be provided alternative facilities for resettlement. </li></ul>
  25. 30. Taj express highway <ul><li>Work on the six lane express highway has already begun under the new stint of Mayawati. </li></ul><ul><li>It is renamed as Yamuna express highway as it runs along the Yamuna. </li></ul><ul><li>Mayawati was cleared of all charges alleged by the Mulayam Singh government in this project. </li></ul>
  26. 31. The Project Questions <ul><li>Should such mega-projects be victim of coalition politics, captive to the corruption and whims and fancies of bureaucrats and politicians in utter disregard of Environmental Conservation, and Protection of World Heritage Monuments? </li></ul><ul><li>And are not there compelling reasons to lay infrastructure in eco-friendly manner for development of tourism and preservation of heritage monuments in the national interest? </li></ul>