It does not matter who built the Taj Mahal and for what reason; it was built by the blood and sweat of Indian labourers, Uttar Pradesh (UP) Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is scheduled to visit the 17th-century monument next week, told news agencies on Tuesday.
Adityanath's remarks come amid a raging controversy over the Taj Mahal being omitted from the UP tourism
brochure and brusque statements by some ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
"It (Taj Mahal) is very important for us, especially from a tourism perspective," the chief minister told news agency ANI.
Adityanath will visit the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort in Agra on October 26 and review the ongoing tourism and development projects, some of which are being run with the help of the World Bank.
department Principal Secretary Awanish Awasthi said that the chief minister would inspect the tourism projects and schemes in Agra, particularly Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.
Critics had attacked the state government over the omission of the Taj Mahal from the UP tourism
brochure saying that the BJP
was working on its Hindutva agenda.
Under fire from the Opposition, the Yogi government has claimed that various development and pro-poor tourism (PPT) projects estimated at over Rs 370 crore have been sanctioned in UP. Out of this amount, over 42 per cent, or Rs 156 crore, has been allocated for tourism projects pertaining to Agra and the Taj Mahal.
PPT is a holistic tourism concept for generating larger economic, social, and cultural benefits. This is targeted at the poor living on the periphery of the respective tourist hubs.
In UP, it is aimed at improving the living conditions and augmenting the income of the poor through tourism development in the Buddhist circuit, the Braj-Mathura region, and the Agra-Taj Mahal region, which are the top three tourist destinations in the state.
On Monday, the BJP
legislator from Sardhana in Meerut, Sangeet Som, had sought to question the association of the Taj Mahal with the country's heritage and suggested that native kings should also be glorified in history books just like the Mughals.
Constructed with white ivory marble, the Taj Mahal figures among the Seven Wonders of the World. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz in 1631.
Taj Mahal is the top tourist attraction in India. In 2016, 6.2 million backpackers had visited the monument. Besides, a total of over 10 million tourists visited Agra in 2016, followed by 5.9 million and 4.9 million in Varanasi and Lucknow, respectively. The Taj Mahal and Agra account for the maximum number of inbound tourists, who contribute to the local and the state economy immensely.
Earlier, the chief minister had acknowledged the monument as an integral part of the country's heritage and said that the controversy over its non-inclusion in the tourism booklet was being raked up by vested interests. He said that the entire controversy was cooked up and that there was no deliberate attempt to sideline the Taj Mahal. He maintained that funds had been allocated for its conservation and the non-inclusion in the brochure should not be construed as neglecting the monument.