COVID-19 makes Agra and Taj Mahal serve the 'time' - revenue and job loss towering

COVID-19 has now left people scrambling for the next job opportunity or to put it simple ‘any’ job opportunity to survive.

Coloured aquatint by Thomas and William Daniell of the Taj Mahal at Agra, dated 1801. Source: 
The British Library
Coloured aquatint by Thomas and William Daniell of the Taj Mahal at Agra, dated 1801. Source: The British Library

Floating in mist as though sitting on clouds like a heavenly place, the mausoleum in Agra, Taj Mahal, is a sublime shrine dedicated to eternal love. Bayard Taylor, an American novelist, was once quoted, “Did you ever build a castle in the air? Here is one, brought down to Earth and fixed for the wonder of ages.”

The mausoleum’s white marble face, draws 9 million visitors, generating millions in revenue with its marvelous tombs, and exquisite Quranic inscriptions engraved in Arabic script. The allures of the Taj Mahal is never ending earning its rightful place in the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’.

However, this ‘wonder of the world, epitome of love’ now shut for the third time in history is a sorry sight, atleast financially. This only the third time in history that the historic monument Taj Mahal has been closed. During the 1971 war with Pakistan, the Taj Mahal was closed for more than a week. During the flood in 1978, it was again closed for a couple of days.

With the coronavirus cases rising day by day in India, (the positive cases as of now is 4281), the Indian Government decided to keep all the public monuments and museums — including the iconic Taj Mahal shut. The number of tourists started falling in the 1st week of March due to the travel restriction and visa restrictions imposed.

Tour operators were flooded with cancellations of bookings, hotels and restaurants long before Agra was placed under a lockdown owing to fear of contracting the coronavirus. Then finally, the gates of Taj Mahal finally got shut on March 18th as a measure to curb the transmission of COVID-19.

The impact of closing down Taj Mahal hit India’s tourism industry in a hard way. Taj Mahal one of the highest revenue earner of India. As per reports the revenue generated from Taj Mahal along stood at INR 76 crore in 2018-19 as compared to INR 55 crore in 2017-18. The online ticket sales to the main mausoleum pitched in another few crores.

To narrow down to the most affected section due to the closing was the tours and travel operators, guides, workers and everyone the mighty Taj supported for their livelihood. When 2020 came, no one anticipated, especially the dependent workers that they would be incurring so much ‘heavy’ losses.

Agra tourism and its dependents

Hoteliers in Agra is facing the ‘time’ of their life – of running the operations and paying bills and salaries of his staff – all because the entire bookings of the ear got cancelled. Many of them are left with no option other that shut down their hotels/restaurants or give a paycut to their employees. Many travel and tour operators say that they will not be able to recover losses even after the Corona scare is over.

While a travel ban is an essential step to contain further spread of the virus, how the government tackles the repercussions of the ban will make or break the people working in these sectors. It becomes even more worrying when the economy of a country banks heavily on tourism. World Travel and Tourism Council had ranked India third among 185 countries in terms of travel & tourism’s total contribution to GDP in 2018.

Everyone dependent on Agra are now finding themselves at crossroads. Small scale businesses like the handicrafts emporiums, or leather business and many more relied heavily on Agra for their daily income.  With COVID-19, reports stataes that Agra alonw faces a INR 2000 crore revenue loss and INR 2-3 laks job loss. 3 out of 10 people in Agra depend on tourism activities for bread and butter. 

Many workers have been reported saying that the lockdown, if continued, they will have no option than to do meagre works or heavy manual labour for their sustenance. COVID-19 has now left people scrambling for the next job opportunity or to put it simple ‘any’ job opportunity to survive.

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