Tourists will have to pay more from April 1 to see the Taj Mahal after the central government decided to raise the entry fee as part of its plans to preserve the 17th-century Mughal-era mausoleum and manage the swirling crowd that come in thousands every day to marvel at the monument.
Officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said the hike will be applicable to domestic tourists and will not affect foreigners, who already pay higher charges for entry.
New barcoded tickets would cost Rs 50 instead of the earlier Rs 40 and would be valid only for three hours and tourists will be issued tickets in different colours for every slot.
As of now, there is no separate fee for an entry to the main mausoleum that houses the spectacular marble graves of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal that are inlaid with semi-precious stones.
“With this ticket, the tourist would be allowed access till the white marble floor around the main mausoleum, but would not be allowed inside the main mausoleum,” Bhuvan Vikram Singh, superintending archaeologist, Agra circle of ASI, said.
“Those wanting to have a view of the graves and architecture inside the tomb would have to pay ₹200,” Singh added.
The decision comes after Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma’s visit to Agra on Sunday night.
“We need to preserve the Taj Mahal for the generations to come,” Sharma said.
The minister cited a recent report by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) that conducted a study on the Taj’s load-bearing capacity. The study recommended that the number of footfall must be reduced as an immediate step to protect its integrity.
“We thought capping the number of tourists per day was not a viable option, but we had to do something. The hike in prices is not to generate revenue, but to ensure that only people who are genuinely interested enter the area,” Sharma said.
The Supreme Court on February 8 directed Uttar Pradesh to submit a “vision document” outlining its plan for protecting the monument within a month, warning that the state government’s “ad hoc” approach jeopardised the monument to love.
A group of preservationists warned in 2011 that the monument was in danger of collapsing within five years. It said the ivory-white marble building began to show cracks in 2010 and its wooden foundation was eroding.
Smog has been slowly yellowing the Taj’s brilliant marble and conservationists have long fought to close polluting industries near the monument. Interventions, including using mudpacks to draw remove the stain, have failed to arrest the slow decay of India’s biggest tourist attraction.
The Taj Mahal attracts millions of visitors every year, an average of 22,000 every day. And, during peak tourist season and other occasions, the number of tourists inside the complex crosses 60,000 to 70,000 every day.
As of now, there is no restriction on the number of people entering the iconic monument complex at any point in time. The average footfall at the monument has increased at a rate of 10-15% per annum.
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Source: Hindustan Times