Friday, November 02, 2012

Privileged Vs Ordinary Access at Taj Mahal



One of my close friends visited Taj Mahal in Agra rather frequently and that happens when you live in Delhi and host lot of family and friends. He shared some observations with me and here I am putting them in front of you. Like all world heritage monuments in India, Taj Mahal also has a differential ticketing for Indian and Foreign nationals, though difference is much biggest here owning to the Agra Development Authority fee of Rs 500/- for foreigners. The difference here is that unlike other monuments across the country, here the high value ticket holders also get a privileged access to the monument. They get to take a shorter path to the monument and hence save time both while buying the ticket and visiting the monument.


An RTI application was filed with the Archeological Survey of India to know why at Taj Mahal people buying the INR 750/- ticket are entitled for a privileged access. Their Agra Circle answered it and answer only stated that this process is followed as per the directions of higher authorities keeping in mind the security of the public. They also confirmed that no other monument in India makes any distinction between holders of Indian and Foreigner tickets.

They provided the following route map depicting the path taken by two types of ticket holders, red depicting the higher value path and green the ordinary, which is obviously a very long path compared to the red one.



The questions this leads to:

1. Is the distinction being made between Indian and Foreign nationals? If so, it is highly unfair in my opinion – as it implies foreign visitors are given priority to see the heritage of the country over its own citizens.

2. Is the distinction between the holders of tickets of two different values? Here also I do not agree with the arrangement in principle but I understand this is done at many places in India to manage the crowd by making people pay for the time they save by not standing in queues. If this is the case then the ASI needs to call it VIP / Privileged entry and Ordinary Entry and even Indians who want to save time should also be able to buy this ticket and enjoy the privilege. As of today the ticket window and the ASI website say Indian and Foreigners and it somewhere implicitly implies that only foreigners can buy the higher value ticket and hence only they can enjoy the privileged access.

3.  I did not understand the security angle, and I assume they mean security of each visitor irrespective of nationality and ticket price paid is equally important. Given the area on the map, in case of a security breach it seems everyone will be a same level of risk unless there is a separate evacuation plan.

4. Why is this kind of an arrangement done only at Taj Mahal? I am sure Red Fort and Qutub Minar in Delhi also get similar number of footfalls, but they have the same access for everyone just like 30 odd other world heritage sites in India.

Please share your opinion on this issue and if there is a strong opinion on this differentiation, we would share that with ASI as a feedback. 

15 comments:

Aashi Kaushik said...

This information is very interesting and you provided all Information on Tour to Taj Mahal in Agra.
Taj Mahal Tours

sachin said...

I also noticed that and even tried arguing a bit but to no avail!!

Shalu Sharma said...

Interesting observations. I knew there was a different ticketing system but did not know that there were high value ticket holders as well.

desi Traveler said...

I have always felt distinguishing on the basis of nationality is not fair. Price on basis of saving time is fine and is done in London too at many places including Madam Tussads where if you have a combo ticket you are given privileged entry. One of my guests from Budapest and Indian with his expat wife and 3 kids all holding foreign passports were made to pay like this.. Husband Indian price, wife foreign price and kids indian price.. :) Not sure if it was the color of skin or passport at work

Anuradha Shankar said...

I didnt know about this 'privileged access' thing at the taj. its been many years since i was there.,as for the diff rates for foreigners and indians, i feel it is quite unfair..i really cant see any reason for such huge differences. yes, conbo tickets, vip tickets allowing quicker access are fine, as long as anyone can buy them. i remember the city palace at udaipur had something like this. it was very expensive, but worth it. and this difference in ticket rates also leads to foreigners being ripped off by other service providers too. i remember while we were at hampi, we took a coracle to the other side of the river, and we were charged about 10 rs per head, and a foreigner with us was asked to pay rs 100. he protested, and turned to us for help... and i couldnt help agree with him. but the coracle driver had a ready answer - when the asi charges extra for foreigners, why shouldnt I?

Lokesh said...

This is a very interesting topic you have brought through your blog. The national treament for all the foreign travellers is important to see growth in Tourism sector in India.

Mysore Palace, Tippu Sultan Palace in Srirangapatna, Hyderabad Charminar has difference in entry fee and treament. In Mysore palace they provide a (audio guide gadget) for charging INR 200.In my perspective India is not a tourist friendly country for the price they pay, there are not even good and hygienic toilets in those places. Authorities need to rethink and realise that current system is unfair.

Julia Dutta said...

Anuradha,

I am absolutely for differential payments. They can afford it, they must be charged for it, quite clearly. Also, many NRIs posing as Indian, but with super fat purses must follow suit also.

I am all for it!

Julia

Toby said...

I feel:

1. Differential pricing is fine
2. Differential treatment based on differential pricing is fine (it's just a class of service like on train or plane)
3. Differential pricing should be available to Indians too
4. It shouldn't be Foreigner/Indian, it should be Foreigner/Resident. It is this way at many places in India (Qtub Minar for instance). While I agree that a visiting foreigner should pay higher prices, I don't think a foreigner who's an Indian resident should. In my case I'm a foreigner, but I live in India. I earn in rupees. I pay (a lot) of taxes. I should get the lower price (and the lower class of service).

ashis dutta said...

The differential rate is justified.

Let’s look at it this way. The upkeep of a heritage site demands that an entry fee of around Rs. 600 – 800 is levied on each visitor. Most heritage sites around the world (not just the ‘western world’) have an entry fee between US$ 5 and 15.

But such fee – which is very much justifiable – will keep the heritage site beyond the reach of most of the ordinary Indians.

The authorities here have shown scant marketing wisdom. They should have put it this way:

Entry fee: Rs. 700
Special discounted fee ONLY for Indians: Rs.20.

This is actually the fact of the case.
- Ashis Dutta, Bangalore

Ewa Barczykowska said...

Hi Anu,
Incidentally, I agree 100% with Toby and I allow myself to copy and paste what he said as it also concerns me.
1. Differential pricing is fine
2. Differential treatment based on differential pricing is fine (it's just a class of service like on train or plane)
3. Differential pricing should be available to Indians too
4. It shouldn't be Foreigner/Indian, it should be Foreigner/Resident. It is this way at many places in India (Qtub Minar for instance). While I agree that a visiting foreigner should pay higher prices, I don't think a foreigner who's an Indian resident should. In my case I'm a foreigner, but I live in India. I earn in rupees. I pay (a lot) of taxes. I should get the lower price (and the lower class of service).
Thanks Anu and Toby!

Inder Sen said...

I agree with you partially. Differential Ticketing is omnipresent in India right from our neighborhood temples to Tirumala.
What I do not agree at all is not allowing Indians to buy that ticket. If the tickets are for only for foreigners then introduce another ticket which allows Indians take the shorter path

Inder Sen said...

I agree with you partially. Differential Ticketing is omnipresent in India right from our neighborhood temples to Tirumala.
What I do not agree at all is not allowing Indians to buy that ticket. If the tickets are for only for foreigners then introduce another ticket which allows Indians take the shorter path

Sandeep said...

I feel that a parity should be established in having differential pricing and privilege access across all monuments/museums,which clearly is not the case here. As Anuradha mentioned, none of the other monuments in India that have differential pricing have privileged access.




anand patel said...

being indian, i need to buy high value ticket, because i want to save my time. i have visit the taj on Saturday when at least 1 km line for enterance in the taj. so i get idea to buy highvalue ticket , there is no line for highvalue ticket holder.

i have enjoy lot due to lots of privilage offered to highvalue ticket holder. only in 1 hour i have visited all place in tajmahal.

ticket of highvalue is Rs 750 per person. if i wait for ordinary line i have to spend whole day in taj. 1 hour for enterence & 3 hour line for main enterance in taj gummat.

Sanjeev kher said...

Government gets foreign money by
charging foreigners more, every country does that, nothing wrong.

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