A day after BJP legislator Sangeet Som sparked off a furore by terming the Taj Mahal a “blot” on Indian culture, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday referred to the architectural value of the monument and said his government was responsible for its conservation.
Speaking to reporters in Gorakhpur, Mr. Adityanath said: “There is no need for us to go into the depth of why the Taj Mahal was built, who built [commissioned] it and for what purpose... What’s important is that Taj Mahal was built from the blood and sweat of Indian labourers and that of the sons (sapooton) of Bharat Mata.”
BJP MLA from Sardhana and an accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case, Mr. Som said on Monday that the Taj was built by “tyrants” who worked to destroy the Hindus of U.P. and the country.
Mr. Adityanath is scheduled to visit Agra on October 26 as part of his plan to promote important sites of tourism. Apart from reviewing development work in Agra, the Chief Minister could also visit the Taj.
The government said ₹156 crore had been set aside for the development of the Taj Mahal and the areas near it.
Though in June this year, Mr. Adityanath had remarked that the Taj was not a fit representative of Indian culture, he told mediapersons on Tuesday that the monument was world-renowned for its architecture and as an archaeological site.
The U.P. government would carry out its “responsibility” in the “conservation” of the Taj and its “promotion” from the view of tourism and ensure facilities to and security of tourists visiting the monument, he said.
Boost to tourism
The State government said it had allotted ₹370 crore for a tourism development scheme in Agra, of which ₹156 crore were set aside for the development of the Taj Mahal and areas near it. The World Bank will assist the government in this scheme.
Under the scheme, ₹22.91 crore would be spent on the restoration of Agra’s Kachpura and Mehtab Bagh areas and ₹3 crore for the construction of a sewage treatment plant in Kachpura. Another ₹22 crore would be spent for the restoration of the Shahjahan Park and walk-way between the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, while ₹107.49 crore has been allocated for the construction of a visitors’ centre and revamp of traffic arrangements on the western entrance to the Taj, a government spokesperson said.
In a clarification issued after the controversial exclusion of the Taj from a tourism promotion brochure, the State government said the proposal to develop areas around the Taj was sent to the Centre for approval. “The scheme is expected to receive approval in the next three months,” a government spokesperson said.
Apart from the Taj and Agra, the government is also creating master plans for other important sites. Mr. Adityanath said he would also go to Varanasi, Chitrakoot and Ayodhya, where he is scheduled to participate in grand Diwali celebrations on October 19. The historically and archeologically-rich Kalinjar Fort in Banda, Chunar Fort in Mirzapur and Jhansi Fort would also be promoted.
Mr. Adityanath said promoting sites of tourism could ensure a 10-fold increase in tourism.