Sweepers' strike piles up dirt in Taj Mahal city

Taj Mahal sweeper

Residents expressed disgust over the sudden work stoppage in a city that is dubbed one of the dirtiest in the country despite being home to one of the world's most beautiful monuments.

The 'safai karamcharis' of Agra Municipal Corporation want action against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Ram Shankar Katheria for allegedly misbehaving with a sanitary inspector, Ramu Sagar.
Katheria denied the allegation. He said: “Let them do what they want. I have nothing to do with the strike. I (want) firm action against Ramu Sagar,” the sanitary inspector of Taj Ganj area where the Taj is located.

The sweepers announced Wednesday evening that they would not let anyone enter the premises of the municipal corporation, not even the mayor.
“We do not have any other means of tackling the problems created by the strikers,” Municipal Commissioner Anand Vardhan said.
Agra, about 200 km south of New Delhi, is the most sought after destination on India's tourism map. Millions from India and abroad visit the imposing 17th century monument of love every year.

Meanwhile, a war of words between Mayor Anjula Singh and Katheria has intensified. Both belong to the BJP.
The mayor wants Katheria to finance the cleaning operation from the MP's official funds. The MP says he first needs to see the balance sheets of the previous years to assess the needs.
The Agra Development Authority recently began cleaning the area around the Taj Mahal.

Ravi Singh, an environmentalist, said that Agra did not have the basic infrastructure for cleaning and disposing of the municipal waste.
"The Yamuna has become dirtier. If one wants to see hell, it is here in Agra," Singh said. "It is shocking to see humans living in most inhumane conditions, pathetic indeed."

Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, sought prompt action to resolve the crisis sparked by the strike.

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