On Saturday, Agra virtually choked as Delhiites descended on the historic city.
Thanks to the Yamuna Expressway — thrown open to public on Thursday — the city saw the traffic crawling, hotels and restaurants around the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort running out of food and water and Dal Moth, the famous savoury Agra is famous for.
Several lakhs of people from Delhi and the National Capital Region headed for Agra on Saturday morning to enjoy the 200 km long Yamuna Expressway — which is toll free until August 15 — to experience what speeding at the permissible limit of 100 kilometres per hour felt like, something Delhiites always dream of doing.
Though the drive from the entry point at Greater Noida took just about two hours before one of the exits near Agra, it took just as much time reaching the Taj Mahal as traffic moved at a snail’s pace because of thousands of cars that entered the city, which is not geared up to meet such heavy traffic . Heavy rains in the night worsened the situation as the main roads overflowed with water.
“The drive was wonderful but what is the point if the infrastructure within the city is not upgraded. We had such a harrowing time inside the city,’’ said Ambika, who came all the way from Dwarka to enjoy a joy trip to Agra, which she had avoided till now because of traffic snarls.
This ineffectiveness of the city infrastructure was exemplified by the situation in the parking space outside the West Gate of the Taj Mahal. It was full and as a result cars had to be parked along the 300 meter stretch between Mehtab Bagh crossing and the monument, adding to the chaos. The 1.6 km stretch between Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal also took over an hour to cover as a handful of policemen were unable to cope up with the traffic rush. Making full use of all the chaos, the tonga wallas and camel cart wallas had a field day charging up to Rs. 40 per head for covering distances less than half a kilometre.
The hopes of hundreds expecting to catch a glimpse of the monument of love was dashed by the serpentine queue for tickets, several kilometres long. Some guides promised an entry into the Taj Mahal premises and a ticket for Rs. 475, but one wondered how they could do it. Some effective bargaining, however, brought it down to Rs. 300, in addition to a ticket for Rs. 20 .
The restaurant outside the Taj Mahal had a waiting number and the two cold drink booths outside had run out of water. “The restaurant man told us there was no drinking water but I did spot about a dozen bottles. They probably sold them at a higher price because it is so hot and people will buy,’’ said Mr. Sumit Aggarwal who came to Agra just to explore Yamuna Expressway.
A little away from the Taj Mahal was a shop selling the famous Panchchi Dal Moth and Petha. “I have no Dal Moth madam. Buy Petha,’’ the shopkeeper said.
Another famous restaurant in the heart of the city made it clear that there were no rotis and naan; only rice would be served. This was a little before 4 p.m. And sitting inside the restaurant was just like being at a Delhi hangout. All one could see in Agra on Saturday was swanky cars with Delhi registration number, as Delhiites took over Shahjahan’s abode.