In Taj city, pavements taken over by vendors et al (Letter from Agra)

June 10th, 2012 - 1:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, June 10 (IANS) Millions of rupees have been spent on laying tiled pavements all across this Taj city but an army of vendors and others have occupied them, leaving the pedestrians high and dry. Agra residents complain that even morning walkers are not able to use the pavements due to widespread encroachment.

This is over and above the flawed tiles which do not allow seepage of rain water, complain many including activist Sudershan Dua.

And any space spared by the vendors has been taken over by beggars and drug addicts.

The Agra Development Authority and the Agra Municipal Corporation spent a huge sum of money in the past two years to tile up the pavements.

“We wanted the road sides cleaned up and make them safe for pedestrians,” corporator Deepak Khare told IANS.

“So a programme was launched some years ago to tile up the pavements all over the city,” he said.

Unfortunately, the freshly lined up pavements have come under the control of the ubiquitous vegetable vendors, kabadi walas, illegal kiosks and just about anyone who thinks public land is nobody’s property.

All around the modern Sanjay Place commercial complex, the pavements have been usurped.

As a result, pedestrians are forced to use the roads.

“Every day we keep having accidents, involving pedestrians and cyclists for whom this city is no longer safe or friendly,” complained social activist Rajan Kishore to IANS.

The residents say that almost all the roads leading to monuments in Agra, about 200 km south of Delhi, are in the possession of vendors selling souvenirs and all kinds of stuff.

“The tourists who walk up to the Taj Mahal are pestered by the hawkers and shopkeepers. The police rarely bother to take any action,” says hotelier Sandip Arora.

Within Agra’s Old City it is near impossible to inch forward, especially in Kinari Bazar and the Fountain area.

Eateries and garages have sprouted on pavements on both sides of the road leading to Raja ki Mandi.

The historical Delhi Gate is dwarfed by encroachments from all sides.

If all this wasn’t enough, even the New Agra Police Station has come up on public land.

Although India’s biggest tourist draw, Agra has earned a negative profile for not being tourist friendly or pedestrian compatible.

The authorities, long-time residents say, turn a blind eye towards encroachers.

“Some of the lesser known monuments have virtually disappeared due to the apathy of the police.

The Archaeological Survey of India routinely sends out notices to encroachers but no action is ever taken,” Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, told IANS.

“No other city in India displays such callous attitude towards history and heritage,” says Shravan Kumar, another activist.

“All the ghats and old temple structures along the Yamuna river have disappeared. The city folks are hardly proud of their rich heritage,” he added.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at brij.k@ians.in)

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