Agra, May 3 (IANS) The soaring day temperature in Agra is taking a toll on visitors to the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri. Very few tourists are now visiting the historic monuments.
"Due to summer vacations, you only see youngsters and domestic tourists these days, but even their number has come down due to the heat," said Abhinav Jain, a handicrafts emporium owner at the Taj Mahal's eastern gate.
With day temperature going up to almost 45 degrees celsius in Agra, heat-harassed tourists are avoiding day visits, said tourist guide Ved Gautam.
The Archaeological Survey of India has spread out a carpet, literally, for tourists at the Taj Mahal and has made arrangements for carpets, shoe covers and water bottles. The officials said cold water plants were running to capacity.
Still, many tourists have fallen ill due to the intense heat in the last few days.
"A large number of domestic tourists have fallen prey to the Agra heat. They have no idea of the heat, especially those coming from east or down south," Taj Ganj hotelier Sandeep Arora told IANS.
The tourism bodies, however, are not satisfied with the facilities at the these monuments. They have demanded a greater number of water coolers, carpets and umbrellas at the entrance gates.
"The demand for hats and colourful umbrellas on sale outside the Taj Mahal has picked up but the Agra Development Authority charges a hefty amount from foreign visitors," travel agent Amit Sisodia, who also wants emergency medical services at the monuments, told IANS.
"Almost daily you see the tourists suffering from heat, and many need to be urgently transported to hospitals for relief," he added.
Senior tourism industry leader Rajiv Tiwari has demanded a four-hour lunch break to give people a respite.
He said: "I have written to the ASI to close the Taj Mahal and other monuments for three to four hours in the afternoon. Since the number of tourists has already dwindled, it will make no difference if the monuments opened at 4 p.m."
He also said the ASI could provide shelters and air-conditioned tents inside the monuments to allow the tourists to spend a few minutes in case of emergencies.
To add to the citizens' woes, the Agra Water Works has sounded an alert and expressed its helplessness to continue water supply as the Yamuna river has reduced to a trickle.
The bazaars in the city wear a deserted look during the day.
"It's only in the evenings that one sees some activity. Otherwise no one wants to be left on the streets in the afternoon, except the unlucky ones," said Vimla Gupta, a homemaker of Vijay Nagar Colony.