Even as the Covid-19 graph continued to soar with eight new cases and one more death, Agra mayor Navin Jain demanded reopening of the Taj Mahal and other historical monuments in the city.
The hotel owners and travel agents in Agra feel that the time has come for resuming normal activities, following the protocol and guidelines, to bring tourism back on the track.
It was the Agra mayor who in March had first demanded closure of the Taj Mahal to contain the virus infection. Now he leads the chorus to demand its reopening, without spelling out the gains when international flights are suspended and the inter-state movement still in the limbo.
Tourism is the mainstay of Agra’s economy, sustaining lakhs of people engaged in hotels, travel business, guides, photographers, emporia, petha industry. A big chunk of population has been hit, due to the Covid-19, as more than 500 big and small hotels are closed.
Prahlad Agarwal, handicrafts emporium owner said, a large number of craftsmen are without work.
Sanjay Sharma, president of Approved Guides Association, said hundreds of guides have suffered economic losses, as tourists are not visiting Agra since March end. The Taj Mahal should now open, so that the livelihood of guides is assured, he said.
The president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association, Rakesh Chauhan said the worst hit were the small budget hotels which were being compelled to pay up all kinds of taxes, even though their earnings from tourism had been reduced to zero.
Sources in the Archaeological Survey of India indicated that a plan for reopening of the Taj would soon be sent to the headquarters, but there was little likelihood of permitting more than 5,000 visitors a day.
District administration, however does not hope entry to the historical monuments could begin anytime soon. “Issues relating to quarantine, mobility and security, have to be taken care of. Right now, the bigger issue is of containment of the virus and check its spread. The rains are about to begin. We do not know what new problems could arise,” an official said privately.
Meanwhile, district magistrate of Agra said the Covid-19 tally has gone up to 907, of which 795 had recovered. Only 67 are now under treatment. Pool sampling has begun in the containment zones.
With buses and trains resuming operations, the city is now limping back to normalcy. The lone flight from Jaipur brought only four passengers while eight from Agra boarded the plane to Jaipur on Monday.
District authorities indicated that from Wednesday markets will open but in a staggered way. Shops on the right side of the roads will open on day one, then those on the left the next day. All shopkeepers have been asked to strictly follow the guidelines.
The police continued to challan people without helmets and masks. A large number of four wheelers were also penalised for not following the guidelines.
District health officials said on Tuesday, that new wards in the hospitals were being equipped with required medical infrastructure and the duties of the medical staff were being rationalised. Doctors have expressed the fear that with monsoon rains, there could be a surge in the number of cases.