Frequent power shutdowns undermine security at Taj Mahal

September 18th, 2008 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS  

Agra, Sep 18 (IANS) Tourism circles and conservationists are concerned about the safety of the Taj Mahal in the wake of terror attacks in a number of Indian cities, the latest of which claimed 24 lives in capital New Delhi.Because of frequent power shutdowns here, the electronic surveillance system, metal detectors and closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras at the Taj don’t function for hours on end.

Some months ago, a couple of CCTVs were reported stolen. At any given time, three of the six cameras don’t work.

The power backup is inadequate as diesel generators are not permitted and no alternative sources of power supply have been provided. In the evenings, there is total darkness in and around the Taj Mahal, which is about a three hours’ drive from New Delhi.

“Without alternative power supply this problem cannot be resolved,” says an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) worker.

R.K. Dixit, ASI’s officer in-charge at the Taj, told IANS: “There is no alternative arrangement for light but we are planning to install solar panels soon.”

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel in charge of internal security of the Taj are always under pressure, especially on days when there is a big rush, sources said. The marble monument to love attracts around 2.5 million visitors every year.

Half the city went without power for almost a fortnight after a transformer at the Sikandra sub-station was damaged in a fire.

The Taj Ganj area too went without electricity for long hours. According to the records of the local sub-station, there was no power supply for up to five hours Sep 13 in the Taj complex.

A source said: “In the past, demands have been made to provide alternative power supply connections to the Taj Mahal but so far no concrete action has been taken. You need proper lighting all around the Taj complex, specially after dusk, to keep an eye on the movement of any suspicious characters around.”

An emporium owner at the Taj’s eastern gate said: “When there is no power supply, how can sophisticated gadgets work? These people have not even bothered to provide alternatives.

“The UPS and battery backup are hardly sufficient for so many cameras and metal detectors. In the evenings and late nights if there is a power failure, you can’t see anything in the whole complex.”

R.K. Dahiya, the CISF public relations officer, however said all the gadgets were working satisfactorily. “So many agencies are involved in the security of the Taj Mahal. We have brought the power supply problem to the notice of authorities concerned.”

Dahiya also clarified that metal detectors have an in-built mechanism for battery backup but TV cameras and monitors need to have continuous power supply for which the Supreme Court has already issued directives.

Both the CISF and ASI have submitted proposals to the government for alternative power supply to the Taj Mahal complex.

“Not just the Taj Mahal, but monuments like the Etmauddaula, Sikandra, Ram Bagh and half a dozen other smaller buildings need better security arrangements,” says Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

“Agra has been safe so far because god is kind, and not because of the efficiency or better vigil of the security agencies,” Sharma adds.

The renewed concern for the Taj’s safety arose after five blasts in the capital last Saturday killed 24 people. This came in the wake of terror attacks in Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Bangalore.

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