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Taj Mahal still vulnerable to terror attack

The Govt has agreed to sanitise the air space above the monument but a notification is still awaited.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2007 15:05 IST

Even 10 months after intelligence inputs revealed a terrorist threat to the Taj Mahal, little seems to have been done to renew measures for the protection of the world famous monument of love.

The threat was perceived from two sides - the airspace above the monument and Mehtab Bagh, the vast open expanse across the river Yamuna behind the structure where Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan once conceived a Taj replica in black stone.

"In view of the renewed security threat to the Taj, we submitted a revised security plan to the central government in June 2006. Since the measures require the involvement of the Civil Aviation and Defence Ministries, there was little that we could do about it," Agra Divisional Commissioner Ashok Kumar said.

"Both the Civil Aviation and Defence Ministries agreed with my view to sanitise the air space above the monument and to make it a 'no-flying zone' but a notification in this regard is still awaited," he said.

He said that the notification would have to be made in the Aeronautical Information Publication of India so that all airlines and the air force were informed about the decision.

As for the protection of the monument from the riverbank, all that the administration has done is to deploy a 10-member police team for round-the-clock patrol.

A senior intelligence officer in Lucknow said, "The Taj Mahal is quite vulnerable from the river side. After all the Yamuna has shrunk and the vast sandy bank on the other side gives free and easy access to all and sundry."

Former Agra Senior Superintendent of police Dipesh Juneja had deployed 300 additional cops around the monument.

Directives had also been issued to light up the area around the Taj Mahal so as to ensure proper vigil at night. However, Juneja was shunted out soon, leaving the entire revised plan in jeopardy.

The security of the monument, which draws millions of tourists, was in the hands of a private agency hired by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) until 2002. The state police maintained round-the-clock vigil in the peripheral area including the three outer gates.

However, following a threat by Kashmiri terrorists to blow up the monument, the Union and State governments jointly decided to entrust the Taj Mahal security to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) in 2002.

First Published: Mar 14, 2007 12:48 IST