Agra: An elderly tourist from Karnataka died of a heart attack at the Taj Mahal last week, raising questions as to why the authorities had not been able to provide prompt medical care and why no ambulance was available at the World Heritage monument visited by millions of tourists.
"He got medical help only after 45 minutes," a guide at the Taj Mahal told reporters.
Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association, who was present when the tourist suffered a stroke, told reporters, "He could have been saved had facilities like an ICU van been available to transport the victim."
An official at the Taj Mahal told reporters, "As of today there is no ambulance or doctor available at the Taj. We have a first aid box."
"The issue has to be sorted out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Agra Development Authority (ADA) officials. Ideally there should be an ambulance available at the parking slots," the official added.
Earlier also Indian and foreign tourists have suffered injuries, slipping or falling from the staircase. In many cases, there has been critical delay.
Chauhan said he had now offered to provide ambulances with support from charitable organisations in the city, but the ASI and the ADA are not granting permission for the same.
"Whoever wants to provide an ambulance will need to secure special permission for a petrol-based vehicle, which is not permitted within 500 metres of the Taj," the official said.
"Last year the ASI had announced that a doctor with an ambulance would be permanently stationed at the Taj, but no follow-up action was taken," Abhinav Jain, an emporium owner at the Taj Mahal`s eastern gate, recalled.
"They make so much money from the Taj, but when it comes to providing basic amenities to the tourists the official agencies are seen dragging their feet. For instance, at the height of summer, the Agra Development Authority could easily provide umbrellas, the ASI could spread out carpets all over the stoned pathways, but one notices the callous nonchalance and apathy towards the concerns of tourists," Jain said.
Despite the heat the number of tourists at the Taj Mahal has not shown any decline this year. Domestic and foreign tourists are braving the summer in Agra.
"The temperature Tuesday was close to 47 degrees Celsius and the red sandstones were sizzling hot. Lots of students are visiting the Taj Mahal these days due to summer vacations. We can be sympathetic to their plight, and provide shelters or shamianas (marquees) and a good number of drinking water points," said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, a voluntary outfit.
Chauhan feels the facilities offered aren`t enough.
"It is shocking that while the foreign tourists are given disposable shoe covers, Indian tourists are not, as if their feet were made of iron or stones. They can easily provide carpets for the convenience of tourists."