Central minister wants army to vacate Agra Fort

Central minister wants army to vacate Agra Fort

Central minister wants army to vacate Agra Fort

Ram Shankar Katheria, union minister of state for human resource development, has demanded opening of the areas under army control in Agra Fort for tourists.

Katheria, who is also the local MP, has written to Defence Minister Parrikar and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma to take  appropriate steps to get the Agra Fort premises vacated by the army so that tourists can see the whole of the world heritage monument.

Presently only a part of the fort is open for public viewing, and large parts with several rich heritage structures are under army control.

The minister reminded the defence minister that large parts of the Delhi Fort were  handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India in 2003, on persistent public demand.

The Agra Fort, spread over 94 acres of land and close to the Taj Mahal, is an exquisite showpiece of Mughal architecture but nearly two thirds of it is under army control.

People are, thus, denied the opportunity to see the famous  Delhi Gate, Salim Garh and Birbal's haveli; nor can they see the house where Shivaji was kept in custody before he eventually managed to flee Aug 19, 1666.

Tourists want to see all these places, the minister said in his letters to the defence and culture ministers.

The local tourism industry has been demanding the opening of the entire Agra Fort for a number of years but so far no decision has been taken at the highest level, Katheria added.

"If the fort is opened, tourists will have an additional reason to stay back for the night in Agra."

K.C. Jain, president of the Agra Development Foundation, told IANS: "Our delegation had met the former tourism minister in the UPA government and also the culture minister. Both of them had agreed with this demand. We will meet the NDA ministers soon with the local MP and minister Katheria."