Agra: Cleanliness at the hallowed Taj Mahal has taken a hit with safai karamcharis (cleaners and sweepers) going on a strike over non-payment of salaries.
"If safai karamcharis can go on strike in a world heritage monument like the Taj Mahal, one wonders what kind of impression thousands of tourists visiting Agra's grand Mughal monuments daily would be taking back of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's much hyped cleanliness drive (swachhta abhiyan)," said Ved Gautam, a tourist guide.
On Wednesday and Thursday, 28 hired staffers of Bhartiya Vikas Group, outsourced by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), went on a strike over non payment of salaries. The agitated workers said they had been protesting for the past three months, but to no avail.
Due to non-payment of dues, the wife of one safai karamchari died in a hospital for want of funds, the workers said.
As a result of the strike, the public toilets are stinking and there is garbage all around. The ASI has sought help from the Agra Municipal Corporation for cleaning up the mess.
Talking to IANS, ASI circle chief Vasant Swarnkar said, "We have informed the headquarters in New Delhi. This is a matter to be sorted out between the headquarters and the outsourced agencies hired for maintaining cleanliness at ASI monuments.
"The local workers were on strike till yesterday. Today is Friday. Tomorrow we will know if they will return to work. But our own karamcharis have taken over and are doing their best to maintain cleanliness at the Taj and other monuments."
Tourism circles in Agra were shocked at the mismanagement and indifference of the authorities towards maintenance of cleanliness in and around the Taj Mahal, the 17th century monument of love visited by over 7 million tourists annually.
"They can not even manage an elementary service like cleanliness. This is indeed shocking," said senior tourism industry leader Surendra Sharma.