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Agra resident seeks information about illegal construction near Taj Mahal

Agra: An Agra resident, Bhim Singh Sagar, requested the information regarding the illegal construction being carried near the Taj Mahal.

Madabhushi Sridhar, The Chief Information Commissioner in the written decision noted that the appellant was unjustly denied information by RTI authorities in Agra and that the Chief Public Information Officers of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Agra Development Authority (ADA) are liable under RTI Act to pay a fine each, reported Telangana Today.

The CIC, highest RTI authority of the country, notes that “Bhim Singh Sagar sought specific details of houses, roads, the residential colonies etc., within demarcation of 500 meters border from the east to the south gate of the Taj Mahal monument in Agra city.”

The appellant had approached CIC when the CPIO of ASI denied the information, saying it is not available with them as records stay with civic authorities such as ADA.

The CIC also notes, “The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the Ministry of Culture, is the premier organisation responsible for maintenance and protection of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance.”

It goes on to further say that “the public authority (ASI) thus cannot deny their responsibility to report the illegal construction and the officer handling Right to Information (RTI) application cannot ‘escape’ responsibility of answering queries by simply forwarding the application to other local civic authority (ADA). The ASI Agra is not a post office and the officers there are not dispatched clerks, they are authorities with responsibilities prescribed by ASI Act and also RTI Act. They have to answer the questions of great public interest and their statutory duty without simply passing the buck to Agra Development Authority. If need be, they have to pursue with local civic bodies to initiate all measures to protect the monument.”

The CIC to fine the CPIOs of ASI Agra and ADA and ordered them to furnish the sought information and make the same public on their websites till July 1.

The CIC also took into consideration of the media reports bug infestations from Yamuna River which are harming the marble of the Taj Mahal.

“The Commission directs the CPIO of Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board to disclose what steps it has taken to prevent eutrophication in Yamuna River affecting the marble beauty of Taj Mahal and to avoid the threat of Goeldichironomus swarm of bug emanating from Yamuna River.”

Eutrophication refers to the increasing fungal life of the river, causing a population rise of bugs, which in turn were ‘infesting the marble walls of the monument’.