central issue

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 Jul 2018 12:32:30

THE honourable Supreme Court of India has touched upon a central issue whose metaphor needs to be deciphered with care and concern. It has directed the Central Government and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to restore the Taj Mahal or shut it down. The honourable judges did not stop just at this. They said, in effect, that if the Government cannot come up with a substantial plan of the Taj Mahal’s restoration, then it must demolish the structure. Obviously, the honourable judges do not want the Taj to be brought down, but restored, but they have made a seemingly extreme statement only to make their point forcefully. It is up to the Government as well as the larger Indian society to understand the implied meaning of what the judges have said and what its multiple meanings could be. 

The most important and core of the issue is if we can protect our heritage capably. There are several dimensions of this issue. As regards the Taj Mahal, whose marble sheen is getting dim due to excessive pollution in the whole region, all these dimensions will have to be taken into account while making a final document on whose basis the work of restoration of the Taj Mahal could be launched. The honourable Supreme Court has made a strong case in favour of a comprehensive vision.

The question, as we all know, is not about just cleaning the marble surface of the grand edifice, but also about creating a pollution-free atmosphere around the place. And everybody knows what this means. In terms simple to state but difficult to implement, the Government will have to initiate a massive endeavour to make the entire northern region pollution-free zone. The geography of the northern region -- with Delhi and Agra at its central points -- is such that even a nuanced change in the climate affects the whole region. The sand-storms of Rajasthan, the cold wave of the Himalayas, the terribly heavy rains in any zone of the vast region, the smoke from burning of post-harvest leftovers in farms hundreds of kilometers away, the industrial smoke from factories in Uttar Pradesh or Rajasthan, the vehicular pollution in the National Capital Regions (NCR) -- all these make a heavy impact on the region, that impact gets most visible on Taj Mahal’s world famous heritage structure. The honourable Supreme Court has expressed its concern about this dirty process by making an extreme statement that the Government may demolish it if its restoration cannot be ensured.

This brings us to a very critical aspect of comprehensive management of the region’s industry and agriculture as well as the process of urbanisation that also creates a lot of pollution. If Taj Mahal has to be restored, the Government will have to undertake activities to curb all these channels of pollution of the entire region and not just of cleaning the structure of Taj Mahal. The honourable Supreme Court has also talked of the ability of Taj Mahal to earn fantastic amounts in foreign exchange if it is protected from getting bad and promoted as a global tourist attraction. The honourable judges have used Eiffel Tower of Paris as a point of comparison. They have suggested that Taj Mahal is far superior to Eiffel Tower and can earn much more in foreign exchange than does Eiffel Tower for France.

This brings us to yet another social angle as well just in the close vicinity of Taj Mahal -- the uncontrolled growth of cheap commerce that impedes a smooth access of tourists to the outer courtyards of Taj Mahal. The congestion of commerce around Taj Mahal, the filth along the access-road to Taj Mahal are so daunting that many foreign tourists discourage their countrymen from visiting the Taj. Naturally, this affects earning of foreign exchange in ample measure. All these angles now cry for attention as regards Taj Mahal.