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1. Introduction

1. Introduction

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Published by Nitin Rana
Ethical Issues....The Taj Heritage Corridor
Ethical Issues....The Taj Heritage Corridor

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Published by: Nitin Rana on Dec 12, 2009
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CONTENTS

1. Introduction

2. The Taj Corridor Project 3. Functioning of the Project 4. The Project Report 5. Why the construction work stopped 6. How CPCB failed 7. What CPCB concluded 8. How NPCC Defended Itself 9. Taj at undue risk 10.Start of Protests 11.Violation of Act 12.Maya disguised 13.UNESCO comments 14.Jagmohan’s Action Plans 15.BJP-BSP Issue 16.Chronology of the Case 17.The Current state 18.Disturbing Features 19.The Unethical part of the Case

In the year 2002-2003……
BEGAN THE TALE OF GREED & CORRUPTION

The Taj Heritage Corridor Project ➢ Took off in November 2002. ➢ A plan to green the banks of the Yamuna.

To create a corridor between the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, linking in the process

other monuments such as Ram Etmatuddaula and Chinni-ka-Roza.

Bagh,

Taj Mission Management Board gave its approval for the project in November, 2002. State government's expenditure committee sanctioned Rs.175 crores. finance

U.P government awarded the work to the National Projects Construction Corporation (NPCC) governor, Vishnukant Shastri . NPCC subcontracted the work, of filling up the riverbed to Ishvakoo India Pvt. Ltd. . Rs. 17cr was allotted for project report , Rs.13cr as advance payment and another Rs 20cr was withheld.

The project report prepared by the NPCC recommended not only the greening of the riverbank but also the commercial ventures. & AS A RESULT……… A 2-km stretch of the riverbed was filled up and a 1.5 metre wall, roughly 1,500 metres long, built from the Ram Bagh side to the Taj Mahal along the river.

Once it was revealed that proper sanctions had not been obtained for the project, the work was stopped. Concerned over the moves, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) had threatened to remove the Taj from its list of World Heritage Sites. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) constituted an expert committee to study the project.

CPCB Failed to be an “EYE-OPENER”
The committee invited the NPCC also to present its views at a meeting on April 24. NPCC requested to appear on April 25 to answer certain queries raised by members and explain how the project report was prepared. But the NPCC chose not to be part of the process.

EXPERTS NOTED TAJ WAS AT UNDUE RISK

ASI informed that no study had been done on the possible impact of the work under the project on the foundation of the Taj Mahal on account of the filling of the riverbed. No Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was done for the proposed work, necessary to arrive on any project relating to World Heritage Sites.

• The experts castigated the consultants for using the plan of CPCB “without details”.

Reports found out another “Heritage Zone” plan prepared by the CPCB, which again had some suggestions "of a very general nature”.

The experts noted that a "cost-benefit analysis is called for on the impact on heritage and environment".

Design Of The Project:
• The Rs. 1.75million Taj Corridor Project was to come up between two heritage monuments , The Taj and The Agra Fort, along the river yamuna, on a platform raised from scooped silt of the river. • According to the company,assigned the task, there was a plan to construct an amusement park ,malls, commercial shops,and walkways through dense wilderness to allow tourists take a leisurely stroll in moonlit nights. • The corridor was to begin right from Khan-eAlam close to the Taj Mahal and end 2 kms towards two city behind Agra Fort. It was to be extended later to allow tourists to reach Etma -ud -Daula and Ram Bagh on the other side of the river.

Baggage Of Foreign Expertise:

• Department of landscape architecture UIUC has an overseas academic component under public law - 480 to study archaeological sites. • A report on Taj attracted attention of decision makers that paved way for Taj Corridor Project in an attempt of bureaucrats to implement it and showcase the technological knowledge and foreign skills. • Content proposals of students was questioned in Agra or debated by government. not the

Critics contend that the recommendations of UIUC group were arbitrary,casual,superficial and based on experience and lack of professional skills The Project was based upon....

Develop mentalist approach of government and beautification of sites.

• Commercial interest and lobbying. • Undercutting tones vested interest. of financial gains and

Legal Framework:
• No build zones around protected monuments and if any build up is to be made needs environmental clearance. • Due to overwhelming protests by activists and environmentalists Jag Mohan Union Culture Minister raised the issue of preserving Taj Mahal. • SC ordered CBI enquiry irregularities in project. • CBI questioned officials of environment of UP government. into alleged &

finance

• Enquiry against Mayawati over unaccounted money transferred swathes prime land in strategic routes and giving rights to JP company to construct hotels along expressway.

PROTESTS:

The construction work stopped on the intervention of Union Culture Minister Jagmohan. On June 16,2003 , Jagmohan wrote to Mayawati . He requested the Chief Minister to "issue instructions to ensure that the statutory provisions are respected and nothing is done which is not in accordance with the approved plan of the Archaeological Survey of India and directions of the Supreme Court".He also advised her that if the issues raised in the media were incorrect, she

should issue a contradiction because the matter had national and international implications. Maya violated the “Ancient Monuments Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958” and

June 20,2003 - Jagmohan wrote a second letter to Mayawati . He said that UNESCO having declared the Taj and the Agra Fort World Heritage Sites, a certain ambience needed to be maintained at the sites. He asked the Chief Minister "to stop all further work forthwith and to probe the matter in depth".

Aesthetic and Environmental Impacts on The Taj:
• This ecologically fragile eco system seemed threatened by proposed “Taj Corridor Construction”. • The wide ranging impacts of sewage, air and noise pollution would beseige the tranquility and peace of Taj, the benchmark of its excellence. • The construction of the Taj corridor, seemingly failed to integrate the monument within natural features and indigenous architectural design. The Taj may look out of place in the proposed transformed natural environment totally shattering the beauty of the monument.

Undertones of Coalition Politics:
• Congress, BJP, SP,BSP – forming power sharing in UP and Central Government each party trying to romote party interest. • Mayawati’s included: ✔ Taj corridor tourism. rationale to for project sanction for

improve

infrastructure

✔ Taj expressway visitors.

to

improve

transport

for

Politics of the Project: At the time project was sanctioned by BSP the party supported NDA at center. So, the project was not objected.

• But union culture minister Jag Mohan raised objection. • Mayawati had to retrace her steps, but she withdrew support from BJP in center. • Announced elections in retaliation to Taj project.

• SP came to power in Up with BJP support. • Raised issue and tried to fix Mayawati in the case for corruption charges and amassing wealth. • Then SP lost power in UP. • Due to changed social engineering of bringing brahmins and upper caste in party cadres by BSP & came to power in absolute majority. • Presently congress led UPA in center on SP support. • Local administration project work. was unaware of the

• Despite the orders to stop work in the absence of detailed project report, the orders were not adhered. • The project was in clear contravention of the Archaeological Monument Act. • UNESCO raised its brow on the construction of this project in proximity of the Taj Mahal, threatening its world heritage monument status. • This raised government attention as this would damage India’s reputation as a culturally conscious nation.

FIR against Mayawati in Taj Corridor case:
Nearly one and a half months after Mayawati quit as Uttar Pradesh chief minister following the Taj Heritage Corridor controversy, the Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday lodged an FIR against her and seven others in connection with the case. Besides Mayawati, those named in the FIR are her top aide and former state environment minister Nasimuddin Siddique, former chief secretary D S

Bagga, former principal secretary to Mayawati P L Punia, former principal secretary (environment) R K Sharma, former environment secretary V K Gupta, former Union environment secretary K C Mishra and NPCC chairman N C Bali, CBI sources said. Among the bureaucrats Bagga, Punia and Sharma were put under suspension by the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, while Mayawati took similar action against Gupta in connection with the case. The FIR lodged in a CBI court in Lucknow against Mayawati and seven others came three weeks after the Supreme Court directed CBI to take such an action for their alleged involvement in the scam. The CBI began probe into irregularities in clearance to the Rs 175 crore case following a Supreme Court order of July 16. After considering three different probe reports submitted by the CBI, an apex court bench comprising Justice M B Shah and Justice B N Agrawal had on September 18 concluded that registration of FIRs were necessary for carrying out further investigations as to how the corridor project work was undertaken and Rs 17 crore were sanctioned when the project itself was not cleared by the statutory authorities. The state and the Centre have been directed by the Supreme Court to complete the departmental action against these officials within a stipulated time of four months.

Following this, the Uttar government suspended Bagga, Gupta and Punia on September 28. Mishra and Sharma were suspended earlier. The CBI alleged that start of project work was approved by Mayawati and reeled out information on the alleged roles of Siddiqi and other officials in the irregularities and malpractices committed in the construction of the project. Construction work of the project, which envisaged linking Taj Mahal with four other monuments -Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-Daula, Chini-ka-Roja and Rambagh, was started on verbal orders of Sharma. The NPCC had unauthorisedly sub-contracted the work to a firm, Ikshwaku, the CBI alleged. The CBI informed the court a major part of the Rs 17 crore sanctioned by Sharma to NPCC was transferred to Ikshwaku. The agency said the Central Forensic and Scientific Laboratory has confirmed that Siddiqi, who had ordered release of Rs 20 crore for the construction work in May this year, had interpolated files to cover up his misdeeds. The agency also alleged that CFSL has confirmed that the Union Environment Secretary K C Mishra had also indulged in interpolation of files to hide his failure to act on the report of the joint secretary's suggestion not to allow the construction work without a techno-feasibility report. It was Court Commissioner Krishan Mahajan who was the first to point out to the court in March this year about the alleged diversion of Yamuna that

was being carried out in the name of construction of the Taj Heritage Corridor. He had then alleged that this project was being carried out without any clearance from the authorities and that it might cause damage to the world heritage monument. The bench, after directing CBI investigation on July 16 this year into the alleged irregularities, had observed that instead of creating something, which could be classified as a national or world monument, concerned officials were bent on destroying the world heritage monument through their illegal activities. The court also came down heavily on NPCC, a central government undertaking, for putting up a sign board at the site saying that the work of the heritage corridor had the authorisation of the Supreme Court.

Present Status of the Corridor:
• Today the corridor is a huge heap of mud and rubbish that is being used as a graveyard to bury dead children and for depositing animal carcasses – a source of pollution for the yamuna that flows behind the Taj. • The Rs.1.75 milllion Taj Corridor Project was to come up between two heritage monuments, the Taj and the Agra Fort, along the river

yamuna, on a platform raised from scooped silt of river.

Taj Express Highway:
• Work on the six lane Express Highway has already begun under the new stint of Mayawati. • It is renamed as Yamuna Express Highway as it runs along the yamuna. • Mayawati was cleared of all charges alleged by the Mullayam Singh government in this project.

Mayawati before the Media :

Ordered for stoppage of the work and an inquiry by the Principal Secretary, Finance.  “There is no difference of opinion on this issue between Jagmohanji and me," she declared.

 But she ignored any queries as to how such a massive project could have been started in the first place without the Chief Minister's knowledge and approval.  Thereafter, suspended the Principal Secretary, Environment, who, she said, had released funds for the project without her approval.

Chronological Dates of the Case :
June 20,2003 Centre tells Uttar Pradesh to stop construction work near Taj Mahal Jagmohan to unveil Rs 150 crore plan for Taj Mahal Mayawati orders suspension of construction at Taj Maya suspends IAS officer over Taj Mahal controversy SC orders CBI probe into Taj corridor affair

June 21, 2003

July 02,2003 July 16, 2003

July 28, 2003 July 29, 2003

Taj row: Mayawati demands Jagmohan's head BSP withdraws call for Jagmohan's head Lok Sabha adjourned for the day PM refuses Jagmohan's head to Mayawati SC wants Taj scam accused questioned CBI questions UP officials over Taj project Taj corridor scam: CBI questions UP minister CBI questions Mayawati in Taj corridor case CBI submits Taj project report to SC Taj scam: Environment secretary Mishra removed Mayawati acquired 131 properties in UP: Chief secretary Mayawati declines to comment Taj controversy: SC directs CBI to file case against Mayawati

Aug21, 2003 Aug 24,2003

August 25, 2003 September 1, 2003 September 11, 2003 September 12, 2003 September 18, 2003

September 25, 2003

Taj corridor case: 3 UP officials suspended

October 04, 2003 Taj corridor case: Mulayam's clean chit to chief secy October 06, 2003 FIR against Mayawati in Taj Corridor case October 08, 2003 Evidence found against Maya: CBI Taj controversy: CBI raids Mayawati's residence Mayawati blames Vajpayee for CBI raids

October 20, 2003 October 22, 2003 October 31, 2003 September 12, 2003

Maya seeks stay on possible arrest HC stays Mayawati's arrest

Taj case: Former UP official challenges charge sheet Taj scam: Environment secretary Mishra removed

April 28, 2004 October 23, 2004 October 25, 2004 March 14, 2005

SC's new bench to hear Taj Corridor case UP recommends Sharma's dismissal in Taj case Taj scam: Centre retires top official Taj scam: SC seeks CVC's opinion

THE INVESTIGATION
• Mayawati has embezzled the money dedicated for this project. • Initially, CBI reported that though she had claimed income of only Rs. 1.1 crores during her tenure as CM, her bank balance in a single bank went up to 2.5 crore and total assets held by her were estimated at Rs.15 crore. • Late 2003, investigations slowed down appear to have

• In 2007, the governor prevented Mayawati from being prosecuted by refusing to lift her official immunity.

• The project is now defunct, and plans are being made to remove the partial construction near the Taj Mahal site and replace it with a low tech forested greenbelt. • The Environment Minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Union Environment Secretary K.C Mishra tampered with the files.

Disturbing Features Of The Case

The acts of omission government agencies .

and

commission

by

 (FIR) "against unauthorised construction being carried out within the regulated area of the Centrally Protected Monument of Agra Fort, Agra". The FIR was not lodged.  The ADA, which is responsible for all development work in Agra city, and the Agra Municipal Corporation, simply ignored the construction work.  The Commissioner, Agra Division, was livid when the fact that construction had begun was brought to his notice by the local ASI representative, but apparently fell silent after he spoke to the Chief Secretary.  Mayawati gave the Chief Secretary and State Environment Minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui a clean chit.

WHAT WAS SO UNETHICAL….???

 The UP Government released Rs17cr to NPCC for the construction .NPCC subcontracted the work without passing any tender to Ishvakoo Pvt. Ltd.  The proposal was not based on the safety considerations of the World Heritage Monuments - expert committee of the CPCB revealed.  None of the government agencies were concerned with the culture, heritage or the environment. Yet Mayawati went on with the work.  Another Heritage Zone plan prepared by the CPCB, which again had some suggestions "of a very general nature“.

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