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Catch Agra before it changes again

It is probably the only city that has stayed so dynamic despite its deep history.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2006 15:26 IST
HT City
HT City

Barring the Taj Mahal, the majestic white marble monument to love, there is hardly anything that has not shifted its location in Agra.

Long back it was river Yamuna that changed its course umpteen times, before settling down to its present route that touches the Taj at the rear.

Mughal emperor Akbar shifted his capital from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri on the advice of Sheikh Salim Chishti.

But he deserted it soon after failing to find a permanent solution to the problem of water scarcity.

The shift to Agra was not for too long. Delhi became the chosen destination of the Mughals for the next 200 years.

The British made Agra the capital of the United Provinces. But soon enough both the capital and the high court had to be shifted out of Agra.

After India’s independence in 1947, residents have witnessed one shift or the other, affecting the city’s life and economy.

It began in the 1970s with polluting industries being asked by the government to move to Nunihai and Foundry Nagar industrial estates across the river, in line with a judicial ruling to protect the Taj from environmental pollution.

Politically correct then prime minister Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule (1975-77) saw the shifting of the Central Jail to a new site outside the city periphery.

The space vacated has now been used for the Sanjay Place commercial complex.

Another shift in 1978 was that of the powerhouse, from opposite the Agra Fort (Bijlighart crossing) to the other side of the Yamuna, near Etmauddaula. Right now both are closed and the land is lying waste.

Came the Asian Games in 1982 and the whole country was linked with high and low TV transmission towers.

Agra too had its tower on the Firozabad Road, near Ram Bagh. But when the tower began appearing like the fifth ‘minar’ of the Taj Mahal in photographs, it was shifted to Shamshabad Road.

The shifting game continued with another onslaught unleashed on the industries.

In December 1993, the Supreme Court wanted them shifted from Kosi, Dholpur or Hathras, outside the Taj Trapezium Zone.

This was followed some years later by moving out the more than 100-year-old wholesale Subzi Mandi in Chipi Tola to a new site near Sikandra, on the national highway. Market matter Similarly, ‘mandis’ in Phillips Ganj and Moti Ganj were shifted to Firozabad Road.

The slaughterhouse at Taj Ganj, which had served the city for decades, was moved to Kuberpur.

The latest is the fiat of the district authorities to shift all the cloth, garment and shoe markets from the interiors to Sanjay Place commercial complex.

The shoe market in Hing ki Mandi and the cloth market in Subhash Bazar, Jumma Masjid area, have been ordered to shift to Sanjay Place by the month end or the shops would be forcibly closed.

Residents in the Taj Ganj area are living under constant threat of being evicted from their habitats to make the Taj secure. Some residential areas and lanes may disappear if that happens.

Asked one resident: “Has any other Indian city seen so many shifts, both in the power equations and in physical settings?”

First Published: Dec 24, 2006 13:00 IST