With the Taj Mahal drawing “uncontrollably high” crowds on weekends and holidays, the central government, acting on a proposal from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), is set to cap the number of visitors to the monument at 40,000 a day. The duration of each visit too is likely to be capped at three hours.
These are among several crowd-management measures at the Taj Mahal that the Ministry of Culture intends to take this week.
After a meeting with officials from the ASI and his Ministry, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma told The Indian Express Tuesday evening: “Several measures have been proposed by the ASI to ensure a smooth experience at the Taj Mahal and avert any tragedy, including limiting the number of visitors at 40,000 and limiting the validity of entry to three hours. We have no option but to go by these measures.”
A minor stampede at one of the entry gates to the monument last Thursday left five persons injured as a crowd tried to push its way in during closing hours. This had officials of the ASI, which manages the Taj Mahal, visiting Agra Monday. Following the inspection, the ASI moved its proposal to the Culture Ministry.
According to the ASI, almost 35,000-40,000 people visit the monument on daily basis. But during holidays and weekends, the numbers become uncontrollably high, sometimes touching 60,000-70,000. As of now, there is no restriction on the number of people entering the monument complex at any point of time. Once a visitor enters the complex, he may spend any number of hours inside, but that is set to change.
Once the restriction comes into place, regardless of whether the ticket is being bought online or offline, its sale will stop once the number reaches 40,000, an ASI official said.
Another measure proposed includes separate entry tickets for visiting the crypt area. On Sunday evening, the ASI had banned entry into the crypt, which has replicas of the graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, on a trial basis, but the minister reversed the order following complaints from visitors.
Barely two months ago, the CISF, which manages entry and security at the monument, had requested the ASI to ensure remedial measures for crowd control. ASI spokesperson D M Dimri said that crowd-management measures were under consideration and a concrete decision will be taken soon.