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Tourism minister Mahesh Sharma pays surprise visit to Taj Mahal

Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma paid a surprise visit to the Taj Mahal on Tuesday evening, to look into the issues ailing the structure, following a directive from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He was accompanied by union minister of state for human resource development Ram Shankar Katheria and local tourism industry leaders.

The minister said the monument required strategies to control crowds and eliminate touts.

The minister asked the Archaeological Survey of India and the department of tourism to green the Taj Corridor between the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal.

The corridor, spread over 80 acres of the Yamuna riverbed is an eyesore and has been reduced to a garbage dump. The Supreme Court had in 2006 ordered its greening but a crunch in resources has been cited as a perennial reason for its continued neglect.

Sharma said the Yamuna needed de-silting and dredging on a large scale.

From the corridor, the minister went to inspect the parking lot at the western gate of the Taj Mahal and the ticket windows.

Sharma was in favour of more ticket windows for e-ticketing.

The minister was not happy to view the dirt and garbage piled up at several places nor did he appear pleased with the drinking water arrangements and toilet facilities.

The minister's visit was kept a close secret.

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