No, Yogi’s Budget Isn’t Unfairly Starving the Taj Mahal of Funds
The Chief Minister didn’t announce funds for the Taj Mahal because it’s a Centre-funded conservation effort.
A Hindustan Times report on Thursday claimed that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s disdain for the Taj Mahal was made clear in the state’s 2017-2018 budget.
The report claimed that the famed UNESCO World Heritage Site and 17th century mausoleum was not part of the Chief Minister’s “cultural heritage” owing to his “Hindutva stamp”.
But that is clearly not the case. Even the previous state governments have not directly contributed to the Taj Mahal’s conservation for this simple fact – it is taken care of by the Centrally-funded Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
RS Jamwal, Director of Conservation at the ASI, confirmed to The Quint that the government agency, under the Ministry of Culture, is responsible for the Taj Mahal’s primary conservation and restoration.
Centre, UNESCO Pump Funds For the Taj Mahal’s Conservation
The HT report, titled “Taj Mahal not part of UP’s cultural heritage plan as Yogi Adityanath’s budget bears Hindutva stamp”, said that Adityanath launched the ‘Swadesh Darshan Yojana’ with an allocation of Rs 1,240 crore for the Ramayana Circuit (Ayodhya), the Buddhist Circuit (Varanasi) and the Krishna Circuit (Mathura). Funds have been earmarked for a Gita Research Institute and a Krishna Museum, it noted.
The report, however, circumvented the fact that the Centre and UNESCO pump funds into the conservation of the Taj Mahal. Between 2013-2016, Rs 11 crore was spent on its conservation while Rs 75 crore was earned by the monument in revenue, as this Lok Sabha reply stated.
A recent instance of the UP government allocating funds to an area associated with the world heritage site was in 2015 when Rs 20 crore was put in for a road leading to it. But that was during a major overhaul of the area.
One Religion Over Another?
The state finance minister Rajesh Agarwal, while presenting the budget on Tuesday, said:
Our state has been a carrier of ancient cultural heritage. But our younger generation is gradually distancing itself from the places of cultural and historical importance. Our government has formulated schemes for maintenance of places of cultural and historical importance to promote tourism.
This was ostensibly the reason given for the funds being pumped in to privilege one culture over another in the HT report.
‘Culture’ Over Development?
It’s documented that Adityanath has said in the past that the Taj Mahal isn’t “reflective of Indian culture”. So it adds up that he is putting money into areas conforming with his ideology. However, those areas do not receive external grants from bodies like UNESCO for their development, unlike the Taj Mahal.
As the Taj was not mentioned in the speech, what comes under question is the infrastructure and development that was being planned on its name. The proposed metro rail and airport were primarily for connecting the world directly to the Taj instead of having to come via Delhi.
Not mentioning it does throw up the question on how the government will attract tourism, development and infrastructure to the state.
With all that being said, the lack of mention of the Taj Mahal also does not take away from the monument’s importance in the state and country.
The channeling of funds to predominantly Hindu areas of Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura could very well be a move to bring them at par with the Taj, to make the state and country synonymous with more than just the monument of love.
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