Chopper over Taj rings security alarm (Lead)

December 16th, 2011 - 7:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, Dec 16 (IANS) The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has filed a police complaint after a private company’s helicopter flew 11 rounds over the Taj Mahal, causing alarm among conservationists.

ASI’s caretaker of the Taj, Munazzar Ali, filed a complaint with the Taj Ganj police station Thursday, a day after the incident that security sources said was a “grave breach of Taj’s security”.

Agra’s ASI chief Indudhar Dwivedi said no permission was taken from his office to fly over the 17th century heritage monument to love.

Commandant A.K. Singh of the Central Industrial Security Force, which is tasked with Taj’s security, said: “We did not have any information.”

Deputy Inspector General of Police Aseem Arun told IANS: “We have ordered an inquiry.”

He added that the company had the permission to fly over the Taj “but the information could not somehow be communicated in time to the concerned agencies”.

Munnazar Ali, conservation assistant at the Taj Mahal, told IANS: “This is a serious matter. Our inquiries reveal they had no permission from the headquarters.

“The helicopter was dangerously close to the monument. I don’t think any sensible person in the ASI would ever give permission. The explanation has to come from the police.”

CISF sources admitted it was a grave breach of Taj’s security.

At one point, CISF personnel were preparing to fire at the chopper. But timely intervention by the district authorities saved the situation, CISF sources said.

Police officials say they have no record to show the area is a no-flying zone.

Conservationists are alarmed.

“At this rate any intruder can infiltrate the high security area. Already the Taj is under threat from terrorists,” said Shravan Kumar Singh, a heritage activist.

Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society president Surendra Sharma asked: “You cannot take a risk like this. What if the helicopter developed some snag and crashed on the Taj or on visitors?”

Assistant District Magistrate Arun Prakash said a documentary film was being made at the initiative of the central goernment to promote tourism.

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