The Archeological Survey of India was rebuked by the court for failing to protect the Taj Mahal from discolouration

'Can Algae Fly?' Asks Supreme Court, Upset Over Taj Mahal Changing Colour

On discoloration of Taj Mahal, Supreme Court reprimanded the Archeological Survey of India

NEW DELHI: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. ASI was rebuked by the court for failing to protect the iconic Taj Mahal
  2. The court expressed concern over change of colour of Taj Mahal
  3. ASI shouldn’t be in charge of protecting Taj Mahal, the court said

The pristine white of the Taj Mahal in Agra is turning brown and green because of dirty socks and algae, the central archeological body ASI told the Supreme Court today.

The ASI or Archeological Survey of India, which is in charge of maintaining and repairing monuments, was rebuked by the court for failing to protect the Taj Mahal from discolouring and said: “The problem is that ASI is not willing to accept that there is a problem. This situation would not have arisen if the ASI had done its job.”

The court also suggested to the centre that it should consider whether the ASI is needed at all for the world-renowned white marble mausoleum.

“The floor in parts of the Taj is dirty because of people walking there.  We don’t give socks to everyone, only VIPs, the rest go in their own socks,” said the archeological body.

The government suggested disposable socks, the kind provided to people visiting monuments abroad.

In a tart exchange with the judges, the ASI said algae were a “big problem” at the monument built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

“But how has algae reached the top parts?” the court wondered.

“It flew there,”  replied the archeological survey, after which the court countered: “Can algae fly?”

Can algae fly,” asked the court.

The ASI also told the court that the Taj Mahal floor at several places was dirty, because all the people walking on it do not use socks.

“We provide socks only to the VIPs, others use their own socks,” it told the court. The Taj floor was also getting discoloured.

The bench pulled up the ASI saying the situation would not have been so if it had taken steps to prevent it.

“The problem is that the ASI is not willing to accept that there is a problem. This situation would not have arisen if the ASI had done its job. We are surprised with the way the ASI is defending itself,” the top court said.

“Perhaps we need to examine solution to prevent the decay of the Taj Mahal without the ASI,” the bench said.

Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was already considering the top court’s suggestion to appoint international experts to look into the issue of protection and preservation of the 17th century mausoleum.

The Uttar Pradesh government said it would place before the court a draft of vision document on protection and preservation of the Taj Mahal that was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

The government said it was also trying to take care of the environment around the structure so that the historic monument could be there for another 400 years and not just for a generation.

The Centre said it would consider the top court’s suggestion to take the assistance of Indian experts or from abroad to see the extent of damage and whether it could be reversed and the steps that could be taken to check them.

The court has been hearing a plea filed by environmentalist M.C. Mehta seeking protection of the Taj from the ill-effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area.

Last week, the Supreme Court saw photographs of the 17th century stunner and expressed concern about pollution and what it believed is the apathy of government agencies.

“We don’t know whether you have or perhaps don’t have the expertise. Even if you have the expertise, you are not utilising it,” Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta told the government.

“Or perhaps you don’t care,” they added.

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The Taj Mahal, which draws tourists from across the world, is considered one of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. It was described by poet Rabindranath Tagore as “one tear-drop . . . on the cheek of time.”

But even the tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz, located in the lower levels of the mausoleum and opened to the public only once a year, are turning yellow and brown, experts fear.

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