November,16,2015: A SUPREME Court judge has sought the intervention of the Chief Justice of India and the apex court to ensure that the Taj Mahal is not damaged by smoke released from a nearby cremation ground.
Justice Kurian Joseph has written to CJI H L Dattu, pointing out that the Taj is under threat from pollution due to burning pyres and that the SC should intervene to protect the iconic monument.
The letter, dated October 1, will be taken up on Monday by a special bench headed by Justice T S Thakur, which has been issuing a string of directives in a PIL filed by environmentalist M C Mehta in 1984, seeking the upkeep of the Taj Trapezium Zone, a demarcated area around the monument, and to maintain adequate green cover.
Sources said Justice Joseph’s letter was tagged with the PIL after it was forwarded by the CJI’s office to the Court Registry.
Justice Joseph’s letter, according to sources, stated that he along with his family had visited the Taj in September when the cremation ground caught his attention. The judge said he was concerned that fumes from pyres may affect the monument’s white marble.
Justice Joseph stated he was told by some officials that the crematorium, nestled between the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, sees at least 20-25 cremations every day. He sought directives to the Agra administration to shift the cremation ground away from the Taj. In May, the ASI had urged the Agra administration to consider moving the cremation site,as the smoke from the site was causing yellowing of the surface of the Taj.
A high-level panel led by environmentalist S Varadrajan had earlier suggested shifting the ground. Agra Divisional Commissioner Pradeep Bhatnagar told The Indian Express the relocation was a “highly sensitive” issue as it involved “religious sentiments”. “The crematorium is nearly 200 years old and it is not easy to relocate it,” he said. Bhatnagar said the administration is making alternative arrangements by upgrading an electric crematorium nearby.
ASI deputy superintending archaeological engineer, Agra Circle, M C Sharma said he was “not updated” on the current status of the ground. “There was some issue related to pollution, which was raised some time back,” he said.
A local BJP leader said political parties and “pro-Hindu” groups had protested when the administration first mooted the idea of relocating. “The administration was going to move the crematorium on a court directive in 1990s.
But political parties and religious groups protested. It should not be relocated,” said BJP Agra Mahanagar president Nagendra Dube.