New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) The number of tourists visiting Taj Mahal is gradually increasing after it reopened on September 21, 2020 following a closure of around 180 days due to Covid-19 induced nationwide lockdown. However, during the closure, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was continuously working on its conservation.
ASI superintendent Vasant Swarnkar said, “Soon there will be a public address system in Taj Mahal. This will help us in passing any information during any emergency times.”
These speakers will be installed at various places inside the Taj Mahal and a control room will be made from where they will be operated. He said, “Such a system is not available in any of the monuments in India, this facility will be made operational here by March.”
2021 started on a positive note as the number of foreign tourists was recorded to be more than 1,000 for the first time after it reopened. The total number of Indian tourists was more than 2.50 lakh while 1,380 foreign tourists visited Taj Mahal.
In September last year, 17,007 tourists visited the monument of which 16,878 were Indians and 129 foreigners. In October, the number went up to 71,209 including 70,618 Indian and 591 foreign tourists whereas in November 83,345 tourists — 82,624 Indians and 721 foreigners). In December, 1,26,133 Indian and 938 foreign tourists visited Taj Mahal taking the count to 1,27,071.
Despite the number of tourists gradually increasing, the shopkeepers are not too happy as they feel that till the number of foreign tourists doesn’t increase the business will remain sluggish.
Syed Munnwar Ali, chairman of the National Monument Security Committee, told IANS, “There are around 200 shops around the Taj Mahal. The reopening of the Taj Mahal is a relief but the situation is not as it was before.”
The same situation is with the photographers and tourist guides. Around 464 licensed photographers work here and they are working on alternate days now to sustain themselves.
Kishan Gopal Kushwaha, a member of the Archaeological Monument Photographers Association of India, said, “We were forced to sit at home due to the lockdown. The Taj Mahal has reopened but there is not much relief for us. Most of the tourists have costly smartphones and they ask us to click photos from that.”
“Carrying smartphones inside the monument should be banned keeping security in mind as people start going live,” he added.
Tourist guides are also suffering the brunt with less footfall of the foreign tourists. Jameel-ur-Rahman, a tourist guide, said, “The Indian tourists who are coming here don’t need guides as they are from around 100 km. Our work will gain momentum once the foreign tourists start coming.”
The officers are also working to improve the connectivity inside the monument which is a big problem for the tourists.