ASI lax in implementing shoe ban in Taj

AGRA: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), it seems, has become inattentive in implementing the ban on wearing shoes while walking around Taj Mahal's main mausoleum. The ban was imposed as walking with shoes on damages the marble architecture on the floor.

Visitors can often be seen walking about the main mausoleum wearing shoes and there is no one present to stopg them. The stairs leading to the main mausoleum have already been covered with wooden planks to avoid further wear and tear on the marble surface.

Rules say visitors are required to buy cloth-made shoe covers for their shoes or go bare feet on the main mausoleum. In order to make visitors take off their shoes before entering the mausoleum, shoe racks have been placed at the entrance. ASI staff is supposed to ensure that no one gets into the white marble area of the Taj with their shoes on.

A senior ASI official said there is no official record on when the ban came into existence but said it was started as a means of giving respect to the graves located inside the main structure. Initially, this practice mostly concerned some religious sentiments but later it also became a matter for conservation.

"Shoe covers serve both purpose. It helps in protecting the marble floor and also ensure respect to the dead," the official added.

The ban has been placed to ensure that the marble does not get damaged or worn out with lakhs of people walking on the white marble surface every day.

However, on many occasions due to a lackadaisical approach of the ASI staff, this rule has not been implemented properly. Moreover, it looks like a free-for-all situation with tourists littering the garden area, near the mausoleum.

When contacted, Ram Ratan, conservation assistant, denied that such problems happen on a regular basis. He said he strict instructions had been issued to attendants to ensure that the ban on shoes is properly implemented.

Meanwhile, after the news of visitors walking on the marble floor with shoes spread, members of the Uttar Pradesh Aman Committee met ASI officials and raised their objection. Its chief, Munnawar Ali, said, "We told the officials that it had hurt our sentiments and has also caused harm to the mausoleum, our national heritage."

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