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Agra

IAF's Mirage-2000 lands on Yamuna Expressway as part of emergency drill

An Indian Air Force Mirage-2000 on Thursday landed on the Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway near Mathura as part of the IAF's plans to use national highways for emergency landings by fighter aicraft.

 
IAF fighter aircraft lands on Yamuna Expressway near Mathura
 
 
An Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage-2000 today successfully landed on the Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway near Mathura as part of the IAF's plans to use national highways for emergency landings by fighter aicraft.
 
"This capability was demonstrated by IAF on May 21, 2015 by a Mirage-2000 aircraft which got airborne from one of the IAF bases in Central India," a press release from the Air Force said.
 
"All facilities like make shift Air Traffic Control, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties and other requirements were set up by IAF personnel from Air Force Station Agra," it said.
 
The IAF had, in coordination with the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of Agra and Mathura tied up all the necessary arrangements for activation of the selected stretch.
 
"The aircraft made a practice approach on the highway, coming down to a height of 100 mtrs before landing off the next approach. The operations were conducted with active support from the government of Uttar Pradesh, Yamuna Expressway Authority, Toll authorities of JP Infratech and Civil Police," the release said.
 
"The IAF has plans to activate more such stretches on highways in the future," it added.
 
The 165 km Yamuna Expressway stretching 165 kms., which connects Delhi and Agra, is a six-lane controlled expressway.
 
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Three die in Agra house collapse

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Three persons including two women were buried under the debris of an old house that caved in during a repair work in Agra city, police said on Monday.
 
The incident took place in Sadar Bhatti area, close to the Collectorate.
 
According to the Mantola Police Station officials, house owner Haji Abid was getting the old house repaired for past couple of days. Around 4.00 p.m, the house came tumbling down and the debris fell on three pedestrians.
 
Neighbours, with the help from the police, extricated the bodies. A cyclist also died on the spot, along with two women of a neighbouring locality.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Taj Heritage Corridor being resurrected in new avatar, but questions remain

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The controversial Taj Heritage Corridor which brought down the Mayawati government in 2003 is being resurrected in a new avatar -- but disturbing questions remain, environmentalists say.

The Uttar Pradesh horticulture department, in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), has started greening the vast wasteland sandwiched between two world heritage monuments, the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, after the local MP and the chairman of the SC/ST Commission Ram Shankar Katheria laid the foundation stone of the new Taj View Garden a few days ago.

The Supreme Court, some 10 years ago, had asked the ASI to clean up the debris from the corridor site and develop the 80 acres of reclaimed land as a green buffer to insulate the Taj Mahal from air pollution. But for want of resources, it took more than a decade for the work to start.

"We have laid a new lush green lawn and lined up ornamental plants. Come rainy season and the whole area would be a green delight and attract tourists," UP horticulture department's garden superintendent Mukesh Kumar said.

Agra Mayor Navin Jain has promised that the municipal corporation would extend the green frontiers and maintain the newly-developed park.

Once completed, the green stretch will be a new attraction for tourists.

Till recently the land was being used not only as a dumping ground for garbage but also as a place to bury bodies of children and aborted foetuses. The sprawling 80-acre platform, recovered through dredging of the river bed and refilling of the open space, was left unfinished after corruption charges were levelled against Mayawati. The charges eventually brought down her government.

The corridor was to begin from Khan-e-Alam, close to the Taj Mahal, and extend two kilometres towards the city behind the Agra Fort. It was to be extended later to allow tourists to reach Etmaddaula and Ram Bagh on the other side of the river.

For months, hundreds of tractors, earthmovers and machines worked round the clock to dig out silt and deposit it on the river bank to create a new platform, which was laid with Rajasthani stones.

The space was to be used to erect tall buildings, amusement parks, shopping malls and the like.

But, after a hue and cry from conservationists that the corridor would endanger the monument and allegations of large-scale corruption in the project, the Central government suspended the work in 2003. The alleged scandal reportedly involved government allotment of large tracts of land along the proposed corridor to a private builder for a song.

As the case against Mayawati dragged for years, the corridor remained an eyesore between two world heritage monuments. Scores of foreign tourists visit the site daily and take pictures that were not too flattering.

Environmentalists have on several occasions expressed concern at the alarming pollution level in the Yamuna after hundreds of truck-loads of waste, including carcasses of animals and bodies of children, was dumped into the river.

When tourists looked at the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort, what they saw was a disturbing sight -- heaps of stinking garbage, carcasses and graves of children dotting the structure and mounds of rubble that invite mosquitoes, dogs, snakes, crows and vultures.

"Such an ugly sight near the world's most beautiful monument can be repulsive and nauseating," environmentalist Harendra Gupta said.

Rajiv Gupta, former president of the National Chamber of Industries and Commerce, thought that "a positive beginning has now been made and soon Agra will have a new tourist attraction".

But local environmentalists point out that the so-called heritage corridor was, legally speaking, an encroachment on the Yamuna river bed. "That was the reason why work was stopped. Now instead of dismantling and removing the debris, they are seeking to legitimise an encroachment of public land," said Shravan Kumar Singh of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

Eminent historian Prof R. Nath, who had first drawn attention to this controversial corridor back in 2002, told IANS on phone from Ajmer: "This corridor should be cleared and the Yamuna allowed to breathe free. Also, the artificial park created just behind the Taj Mahal on a mound of debris should be immediately cleared as it has distanced the river Yamuna which should flow touching the base of the monument. The powers that be should stop playing with monuments."

IANS

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UP dust storm toll climbs to 12

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The death toll in a dust storm that hit Uttar Pradesh has increased to 12, a government official said on Thursday.
 
Over 25 people were injured in the storm that hit many parts of western Uttar Pradesh late on Wednesday night.
 
The victims included six from Agra, four from Etawah and two from Kanpur.
 
Gusty winds, followed by hail and lightning, led to the collapse of many houses as well.
 
An official told IANS that due to the uprooting of many trees, traffic was hit on the Gwalior-Bareilly highway and also on the Faizabad road linking the temple town to the state capital. 
 
Several trees have been uprooted in Lucknow and power outages were reported from many areas. 
 
Rain was reported in Kanpur, Kannauj and other neighbouring districts. 
 
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed officials to ensure speedy rescue and relief of the affected and ordered prompt medical aid for the injured.
 
District authorities in the worst affected areas of Kanpur, Aligarh, Agra, Firozabad and Hathras have been asked to assess the damage and ensure compensation by Thursday, a government spokesman told IANS.
 
IANS
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Seven killed as dust storm hits many parts of UP

 
Massive dust storm surrounds Taj Mahal in Agra
 
 
At least seven people were killed and half a dozen others injured as a duststorm hit many parts of western Uttar Pradesh late on Wednesday, officials said.
 
A state government spokesman said that four people have been killed in Agra while three lost their lives in Etawah. The deceased include a woman. 
 
Gusty winds are blowing across western and central Uttar Pradesh and hail has also been reported from Firozabad, neighboring the Taj city, an official told IANS. The Regional Met office here has predicted more such storms in the next 24 hours.
 
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has meanwhile directed officials of the storm hit districts of Aligarh, Agra, Mathura and Firozabad to ensure prompt relief to those effected in the rough weather. 
 
He has also warned officials against any laxity with regards to relief and has asked them to make immediate assessment of the losses and damage caused by the storm and ensure speedy disbursal of compensation.
 
Trees have been uprooted at many places and power outages have also been reported. Traffic has been hit on highways at some places.
 
IANS
 
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Adityanath visits storm-hit UP villages, provides assistance

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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday visited the storm-affected villages near here, met the injured and survivors, and also presented cheques to the bereaved families, officials said.
 
The Chief Minister cut short his Karnataka visit on Friday night and reached Agra to review arrangements being made to restore normalcy in the lives of people affected by the freak storm on Wednesday night.
 
Talking to media persons, he reacted sharply to the Twitter comment of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, saying "they were insensitive people who had no shame".
 
On May 3 (Wednesday), Akhilesh took to Twitter to slam Adityanath for campaigning in Karnataka for the May 12 assembly elections in the southern state, even as Uttar Pradesh was hit by a storm. 
 
Adityanath made an aerial survey of affected villages in a helicopter on Saturday. Local MPs and MLAs accompanied the Chief Minister during his visit to distant villages.
 
The district administration has been instructed to defer collection of revenues and loans, till the conditions returned to normalcy. The state electricity board officials have been told to fix power lines and change poles immediately to avoid accidents.
 
He also asked the district administration to involve local NGOs to provide facilities for the injured and the family members.
 
At the S.N. Medical College in Agra, Adityanath met the injured children, consoled them and asked them to go to school after recovery. He also became emotional after meeting some kids of Bad village.
 
The principal of the medical college was asked to ensure there were no lapses and all got fair treatment. The Chief Minister then visited the district hospital to meet the injured.
 
He said 800 electric poles had been damaged which resulted in disruption of power supply.
 
IANS
 
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ASI's 'beauty parlour' treatment cause of Taj's browning, says historian

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Welcoming the Supreme Court's concern over discolouring of the Taj Mahal, the 17th-century monument to love in Agra, historian Prof R. Nath, an authority on Mughal architecture, said: "mud-pack treatment with 'Multani Mitti' was the chief cause (of its browning) and this should be stopped forthwith".

Talking to IANS on phone from Ajmer, where he has shifted from Agra, Nath said: "I had on dozens of occasions warned that the beauty parlour treatment with Fuller's Earth would leave permanent scars and make the surface rough for deposits in the ambient air to settle down. In their wisdom, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) experts have damaged the original 'Vajra Lep', a concoction of paste using local ingredients, to provide a permanent cover."

Nath said another problem area in respect of the security and safety of the Taj Mahal is the dry river Yamuna.

"On scores of occasions, and in a number of my research papers, I had recorded that the Yamuna was an integral part of the Taj Mahal complex and the foundation resting on wells needed water round the year. The state and central governments ignored the warning I had given that the water in the river was necessary to buttress the heavy weight of the main edifice. The dome alone weighs 12,500 tonnes. My fear is someday the huge structure could just cave in," he said.

You do not need foreign experts to tell you what to do and how to conserve these valuable heritage structures, Nath said.

"The temples in Rajasthan, all marble, Dilwara, Girnar, built in the 12th century, stand out sparkling white, without any signs of fatigue. Why is only the Taj Mahal wearing out and looking pale and sick?"

The 80-year-old historian, who has written more than 300 research papers and authored dozens of books on Mughal architecture and history, is deeply pained and anguished. "I am not physically fit, otherwise I would have protested and raised an alarm. The powers that be do not seem interested in preserving history and heritage."

He accused the ASI of ignoring its own 1923 conservation manual by Sir John Marshall, which prescribes almost everything related to the conservation of protected national monuments and is not convinced of the ASI's expertise in protecting the monument.

"Cracks are bound to develop in any structure over the years, but they have to be periodically investigated and filled with material that is compatible with the structure," he said.

The Taj Mahal underwent its first repair in 1652 when there was a leak in its dome. The leak was plugged using ingredients that had waterproofing qualities like pulses, gum and gur, said Nath.

"The lime-mortar mix was used in ancient and medieval times for roofing and for filling the cracks and crevices. Aurangzeb had the Taj repaired with the same materials in several thick layers and the leakage was plugged permanently. The materials used by ASI are a poor substitute to the original," he said.

"Chances are the pores of the marble slabs would be opened because of the treatment, exposing the stones to environmental onslaughts. The builders of the Taj Mahal gave it a permanent treatment using a 'desi' concoction developed after years of painstaking research. This is called the 'vajra lep'," Nath said, adding that there was no history of "Multani mitti" being used on large marble buildings in "Greece, Italy or anywhere else in the world".

"Since it is essentially a bleaching agent, will it not make the Taj's surface rough and uneven," he questioned.

Local conservationists, too, are not convinced about the usefulness and safety of treating the Taj Mahal with a mudpack on a regular basis. Experts point out that air pollution in Agra is the main reason for the deteriorating condition of the monument and that the government should focus on that instead.

"If the (previous) treatment was so good, why do they have to give it another one so soon," asked Surendra Sharma of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

"What this means is that all our efforts to fight environmental pollution in the Taj Trapezium Zone have dismally failed. If pollution has been checked as claimed by the departments concerned, then what are the factors that are disfiguring the Taj Mahal?" Sharma asked.

IANS

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93 die in UP, Rajasthan due to storm, lightning

At least 93 people died in dust storm and lightning strikes that hit several parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan overnight, officials said on Thursday.

 
62 killed in dust storm, lightning in Uttar PRadesh
 
 
At least 93 people died in dust storm and lightning strikes that hit several parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan overnight, officials said on Thursday.
 
While 62 people were killed in Uttar Pradesh -- with 43 of them in the Taj city Agra alone -- another 31 died in Rajasthan's Alwar, Dholpur and Bharatpur districts, officials said. Around 150 people were also injured in the two states.
 
Officials told IANS that the death toll could go up as full information on the extent of the tragedy was still pouring in. 
 
Of the casualties, many were caused by lightning, which struck at many places after the dust storm settled down. Rains also lashed many places. 
 
In Uttar Pradesh, besides the 43 deaths from Agra, three people died each in Bijnore and Kanpur Dehat (rural) and one each in Bareilly, Pilibhit, Chitrakoot, Rae Bareli, Unnao, Mathura, Amroha, Kannauj, Banda, Kanpur city, Sitapur, Sambhal and Mirzapur.
 
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is campaigning for the BJP in Karnataka, has told officials to ensure rescue and relief work in the worst hit Agra, Bijnore, Bareilly, Unnao, Saharanpur, Pilibhit, Firozabad, Chitrakoot, Muzaffarnagar and Rae Bareli districts.
 
In Rajasthan, a powerful dust storm hit Alwar, Dholpur and Bharatpur districts, killing 31 people and injuring another 100.
 
The storm, with a wind speed of 100 km per hour, uprooted trees, severed telephone, power and water supply links and brought down houses, officials said.
 
State Disaster Management Minister Gulabchand Kataria called an emergency meeting and confirmed that 16 persons were killed in Bharatpur, 10 in Dhaulpur and five in Alwar. 
 
For the first time in the state, a storm has been included under the category of natural disaster and funds to the tune of Rs 2.5 crore have been sanctioned for each district, Kataria said.
 
The exact level of damage in Alwar, Jhunjhunu and Bikaner was yet to be confirmed, said officials. 
 
Bharatpur's Additional District Magistrate O.P. Jain told IANS: "We are making all efforts to ensure that the injured are given medical aid. 
 
"We have prioritized restoration work so that drinking water and electricity get restored."
 
Dholpur Additional District Magistrate Harphool Yadav said 10 people in the district have lost their lives. "Quick response teams have been deployed since last night."
 
A senior official in Alwar said rescuers were still trying to reach out to people to know the exact level of damage. As phone connections have been severed, it was difficult to contact the interiors. 
 
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Yadav said that some 200 people were stuck in village Lebdapura Basedi after their houses were gutted in a fire. 
 
Several electrical poles came down, disrupting power supply. The falling trees and electric poles caused the maximum accidents, leaving almost 100 people injured, Yadav said.
 
Both Bharatpur and Alwar were without power through the night.
 
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje directed the officials on Thursday to help the injured. "Distressed after storm in Alwar, Bharatpur and Dholpur," she tweeted.
 
The Met department said the storm condition would continue till Saturday in Rajasthan. 
 
Uttar Pradesh's regional Met office also warned of a second spell of dust storm in many districts of Uttar Pradesh, following which an alert has been sounded by the government.
 
According to a letter from regional Met Director J.P. Gupta to the Relief Commissioner, thunderstorms accompanied by gutsy winds were very likely in Gorakhpur, Ballia, Mau, Ghazipur, Ambedkarnagar, Sant Kabeernagar, Basti, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Siddharthnagar, Gonda, Balrampur, Sharawasti, Sitapur, Bahraich, Kheri, Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit, Rampur, Bareilly, Budayun, Aligarh, Etah, Mahamaya Nagar, Mathura, Noida, Bulandshahr, Moradabad, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnore and Baghpat.
 
Massive rains were also expected in some places. 
 
Gupta told IANS that there was no likelihood of the storm affecting the state capital, however. 
 
IANS
 
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Dust storm, lightning kill 62 in Uttar Pradesh

The death toll in the dust storm and lightning strikes at many places in Uttar Pradesh overnight has climbed up to 62, officials said on Thursday.

 
62 killed in dust storm, lightning in Uttar PRadesh
 
 
The death toll in the dust storm and lightning strikes at many places in Uttar Pradesh overnight has climbed up to 62, officials said on Thursday.
 
Of these, 43 are from the Taj city Agra. Another 47 persons have been injured in the Wednesday night disaster.
 
A total of 160 cattle died in different districts. 
 
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is campaigning for the BJP in Karnataka, has told officials to ensure rescue and relief work in the worst hit Agra, Bijnore, Bareilly, Unnao, Saharanpur, Pilibhit, Firozabad, Chitrakoot, Muzaffarnagar and Rae Bareli districts.
 
Officials told IANS that the death toll could go up as full information on the extent of the tragedy was still pouring in. 
 
Besides the 43 deaths from Agra, three people died each in Bijnore and Kanpur Dehat (Rural)and one each in Bareilly, Pilibhit, Chitrakoot, Rae Bareli, Unnao, Mathura, Amroha, Kannauj, Banda, Kanpur city, Sitapur, Sambhal and Mirzapur.
 
Of the casualties, many have been caused by lightning, which struck at many places after the dust storm settled down. Rains also lashed many places after the storm. 
 
The Regional Met office has warned of a second spell of dust storm in many districts of Uttar Pradesh, following which an alert has been sounded by the government.
 
According to a letter from regional Met Director J.P. Gupta to the Relief Commissioner, thunderstorms accompanied by gutsy winds were very likely in Gorakhpur, Ballia, Mau, Ghazipur, Ambedkarnagar, Sant Kabeernagar, Basti, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Siddharthnagar, Gonda, Balrampur, Sharawasti, Sitapur, Bahraich, Kheri, Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit, Rampur, Bareilly, Budayun, Aligarh, Etah, Mahamaya Nagar, Mathura, Noida, Bulandshahr, Moradabad, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnore and Baghpat.
 
Massive rains were also expected in some places. 
 
Gupta told IANS that there was no likelihood of the storm affecting the state capital, however. 
 
IANS
 
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Storm, lightning kill 45 in Uttar Pradesh

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As many as 45 people have been killed in a dust storm that hit many parts of Uttar Pradesh overnight, a government spokesman said on Thursday. Of these, 36 died in Agra alone.
 
More than three dozen persons have also been injured in the storm and the lightning that struck the state on Wednesday night. 
 
A total of 156 cattle died in different districts. 
 
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is campaigning for the BJP in Karnataka, has directed officials to ensure rescue and relief operations in the storm hit districts of Agra, Bijnore, Bareilly, Saharanpur, Pilibhit, Firozabad, Chitrakoot, Muzaffarnagar, Rae Bareli and Unnao.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Two dead, 30 hurt after high-tension electric wire falls on bus in Agra district

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Two people were killed and more than 30 others injured after a high-tension electric wire snapped and fell on a bus in Uttar Pradesh's Agra district, police said on Monday.
 
The bus caught fire after the wire fell on it on Sunday night in Baiman Loria village. The passengers were going to attend a marriage function.
 
Villagers pelted stones and blocked the road in anger due to delay in rescue operations.
 
They alleged that the police came after an hour and even the power supply department took no action when informed, they added.
 
The situation was brought under control with the help of additional force deployment. 
 
Senior Superintendent of Police Amit Pathak said police teams have been deployed in the affected villages. 
 
S.K. Verma, an officer at state-owned Dakshinanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd. said officials were sent to the site and strict action would be taken after an inquiry.
 
The injured were shifted to the district hospital.
 
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12 killed in two separate accidents in Agra district on Monday

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As many as 12 persons were killed in two separate road accidents in Uttar Pradesh's Agra district, police said.
 
Both the accidents took place on Monday evening, a police official said.
 
In the first incident, three persons on a motorbike rammed into a stationary truck on the Agra-Delhi Highway. All three died on the spot, he said.
 
In another accident, nine persons were killed when the vehicle they were travelling in collided head-on with a truck in Khairagarh area here.
 
There were over 20 people in the vehicle according to eye-witnesses, the official said. 
 
Of the nine killed, six died on the spot while three succumbed to injuries in a hospital, he added.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 
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India’s fastest train Gatimaan Express extended up to Gwalior/Jhansi

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India’s fastest train, the Gatimaan Express, has been extended up to Gwalior/Jhansi from April 1 to boost tourism in the Bundelkhand region.
 
The extension of this prestigious premium train no 12049/50 that was plying between Hazrat Nizamuddin and Agra Cantonment will facilitate tourists to visit various tourist attractions in and around Gwalior including the Jai Vilas Palace Museum, Gwalior Fort, Jai Vilas Palace and Gopachal Parvat to name a few.
 
Jhansi is famous for Jhansi Fort, Government Museum associated with the first war of Independence, Orchha Fort and Jahangir Mahal.
 
The train will run six days of the week except for Friday.
 
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Taj entry restricted to three hours from Sunday

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Entry to the Taj Mahal will be restricted to only three hours starting from Sunday, according to a notice issued by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
 
The decision was taken to reduce "human load" on the fragile, 17th century monument of love which has started showing signs of fatigue and ageing, the notice said.
 
ASI sources said the modalities were being worked out as extra staff would be needed to check tickets and enforce new timing instructions.
 
Crowd management at the white marble mausoleum had become a huge challenge for the CISF as, on holidays and weekends, the number of visitors exceeded 50,000, excluding children below 15 years who can enter for free and are therefore not recorded. 
 
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Three AIIMS doctors dead, four injured in accident on Yamuna Expressway

 
Three AIIMS doctors killed in Yamuna Expressway accident
Three doctors working at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the country's foremost medical facility, died and four other doctors of the same institution suffered injuries in an accident near Mathura on the Delhi-Agra Yamuna Expressway in the early hours of today.
 
The mishap occurred near milestone 88, close to Kaiti in Surur area at around 2.30 am when the seven doctors were on their way from here to Agra to attend the birthday celebrations of one of them when their Toyota Innova sports utility vehicle (SUV) rammed into an Eicher mini-truck from behind, police sources said.
 
According to various accounts, the driver of the SUV was trying to overtake the mini-truck when he appparently lost control over the wheel and it crashed into it from behind.
 
The mangled steel door of the SUV was wrenched off its hinges in the impact of the collision and was lying on the side of the road at the scene of the crash, which is about 60 km from Agra.
 
The three doctors who died on the spot were identified as Dr. Hembala (34), Dr. Yashpreet Singh (25) and Dr. Harshad Wahkhade (34). The four doctors who were suffered injuries were Dr. Jitendra Mourya, Dr. Abhinav Singh, Dr. Mahesh Kumar and Dr. Catherine Halam. Of them, Dr. Catherine has head injuries while the rest had fractures of their hands and legs, the sources said, adding that all four had been referred to AIIMS for treatment.
 
Police are on the lookout for the driver of the mini-truck, who abandoned the vehicle and fled the scene, the sources added.
 
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Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu arrives on six-day state visit to India

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Delhi on Sunday on a six-day state visit to India during which he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold discussions on shaping bilateral relations between the two countries for the next 25 years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Delhi airport on January 14, 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Delhi airport on January 14, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived here today on a six-day state visit to India during which he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold discussions on shaping bilateral relations between the two countries for the next 25 years.
 
In a special gesture, Mr. Modi drove to the Delhi Airport to receive Mr. Netanyahu, who is accompanied by his wife Sara Netanyahu.
 
The two Prime Ministers greeted each other with a warm hug and a shakehand.
 
Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Modi drove from the airport to Teen Murti Chowk to attend a ceremony at which it was renamed as Teen Murti Haifa Chowk in memory of the supreme sacrifice by Indian soldiers to liberate Haifa in Israel in 1918. The two Prime Ministers laid wreaths at the memorial.
 
The three bronze statues at Teen Murti represent the Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers who were part of the 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade that carried out the victorious assault on the city of Haifa on September 23, 1918 during World War I. 
 
Later, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on the Israeli Prime Minister, when they discussed various aspects of the bilateral ties and ways of strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries.
 
During his stay in India, Mr. Netanyahu will also travel to Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, Gujarat and Mumbai before flying back home.
 
This is Mr. Netanyahu's first visit to India. The two countries had, on the  occasion of commemoration of 25 years of establishing diplomatic relations, it was decided to exchange the visits of both the Prime Ministers. Accordingly, Mr. Modi had visited Israel in July 2017, and during that visit, India's relations with Israel were upgraded to a strategic partnership with special focus on agriculture and water. 
 
Both the sides are expected to conclude memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and agreements in the aeas of cyber security, space, film production and energy, a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs added.
 
In Delhi, apart from holding bilateral talks with Mr. Modi tomorrow, Mr. Netanyahu will call on President Ram Nath Kovind. The two Prime Ministers will attend the 2nd India-Israel CEOs Forum. The first CEOs Forum was held during Mr. Modi's visit to Israel.
 
 
Modi, Netanyahu visit Teen Murti Chowk
Mr. Netanyahu will also inaugurate the Raisina Dialogue, organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
 
Both the sides are expected to conclude MoUs/Agreements in the area of cyber, space, film production and energy.
 
In Gujarat, the two Prime Ministers will visit the Center of Excellence in Vadrad and inaugurate a Center of Excellence for date palms in Bhuj via video conference. They will also visit the iCreate innovation campus and center.
 
In Mumbai, Mr. Netanyahu will meet with Jewish community leaders and select members of the Indian business community. He will also reach out to Bollywood in an exclusive “Shalom Bollywood” event.
 
Ahead of the visit, the Israeli Ambassador to India, Mr. Daniel Carmon said, “The Prime Minister’s visit to India is the grand finale to the celebrations of 25 years of growing partnership between India and Israel. The visit will focus on the progress made between India and Israel since Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Israel last summer, and on shaping the next 25 years of relations between our countries and our peoples.”
 
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Convocation not end of journey but beginning of new phase: Kovind tells students

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President Ram Nath Kovind today urged students to see their university convocation not as the end of a journey but as the commencement of a new phase of responsibility and learning.     
 
Addressing the 83rd Convocation of the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar University here, Mr Kovind said the students should realise that so many people had contributed to their education -- parents, teachers, family members and others in the government and the society.
 
These people had contributed to giving the graduating students an opportunity that millions in the country are unable to get. Therefore, it was the duty of the students to pay back society in some way, and work for the cause of humanity, he added.
 
The President noted that the university has adopted a primary school, taken up the responsibility for education of underprivileged children in a model school, run cornea transplant programmes and organised blood donation camps.
 
He termed the efforts as commendable and stated that such initiatives made the students more sensitive and responsible towards society. Mr Kovind expressed confidence that the university would continue to play a meaningful role in preparing the younger generation for the challenges of the 21st century.
 
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40 students from HP injured as their bus overturns near Agra

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About 40 students of a private school in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh suffered injuries when their bus overturned after one of its tyres burst on the Yamuna Expressway near Agra this morning.
 
The students were on a study tour and were on their way to the famed Taj Mahal in Agra when the mishap occurred near Jharna Nala in the Etmadpur police stations limits.
 
Police sources said more than 20 of the injured were admitted for treatment at the Agra Medical College Hospital, where the condition of about eight of them was stated to be serious but stable.
 
Senior district administration and police officials rushed to the scene and to the hospital to meet the victims, the sources added.
 
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Swiss couple suffer serious injuries in brutal attack at Fatehpur Sikri

 
Swiss couple injured in attack at Fatehpur Sikri
A young Swiss couple suffered injuries when they were brutally attacked by a group of youngsters who pestered them for "selfies" with the woman before pelting stones and beating them with sticks, leaving the man with a broken skull and his girl friend with a fractured hand in Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh.
 
Located about 35 km from Agra, the city of the Taj, Fatehpur Sikri was briefly the capital of the Mughal empire and is now an enchanting tourist destination, attracting tourists from all over the world.
 
Sources said the incident occurred on Sunday afternoon when the pair, Quentin Jeremy Clerc and Marie Droz, both 24, were strolling near the railway station at Fatehpur Sikri after spending the previous two days in Agra.
 
The sources said a group of youths started following them around and kept making comments before trying to stop them and force Droz to pose for photographs with them.
 
Media reports quoted doctors treating the couple that Clerc had a fracture in his skull and a clot in his brain. He is also suffering hearing impairment in one of his ears. Droz suffered a fracture in her arm, apart from multiple bruises. After being treated at a local hospital in Fatehpur Sikri and then in Agra, they have been shifted to the Apollo Hospital in Delhi, the sources said.
 
The couple arrived in India on September 30 and have been travelling around. They were in Agra for two days before visiting Fatehpur Sikri.
 
Police have identified three of the miscreants, said to be  juveniles, from the photographs they clicked with the couple. One of them has been detained, while efforts are being made to trace the other two.
 
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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on micro-blogging site Twitter that she had sought a report from the  Uttar Pradesh Government after seeing media reports about the incident.
 
"I have just seen this. I have asked for a report from the State Government," she said. "My officers will reach them in the hospital," she said. Since then, officials from the Ministry of External Affairs have visited the couple in hospital and also talked to the doctors and local officials.
 
Meanwhile, Union Minister of Tourism K. J. Alphons has expressed concern over the incident in a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who was visiting Agra today.
 
“I am deeply concerned that two Switzerland citizens were attacked and injured at Fatehpur Sikri yesterday," he said in his letter
 
"You would kindly appreciate that such incidents negatively impact our image and are detrimental to our efforts in promoting India as a tourism destination. A fast and speedy response in identifying and ensuring speedy action including conviction of the guilty would be reassuring, as also a good message of our efforts to prevent recurrence of such incidents," Mr. Alphons said.
 
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16 IAF aircraft land on Agra-Lucknow Expressway in major highway landing exercise

As many as 16 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, including fighter jets, carried out major landing operations on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway on Tuesday as part of exercises aimed at increase its flexibility in the use of air power.

 
Indian Air Force aircraft land on Lucknow-Agra Expressway
As many as 16 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF), including fighter jets, carried out major landing operations on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway today as part of exercises aimed at increasing its flexibility in the use of air power.
 
The series of landings took place close to Bangarmau in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh, about 60 km west of Lucknow, the state capital, where a three km stretch of the expressway was specially prepared for such operations.
 
The landing operations commenced at around 1015 hrs and continued till about 1200 hrs. 
 
The aircraft which participated in the operation comprised IAF’s frontline air superiority fighters including the Sukhoi-30, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar fighter aircraft. These aircraft took off from Bareilly, Gwalior and Gorakhpur, respectively. 
 
In addition, the IAF carried out drills in which Garud commandos were inserted and extricated for ground operations, by the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft which took off from Hindon airbase.
 
A team of senior IAF officials headed by Senior Air Staff Officer HQ CAC, IAF Allahabad Air Marshal AS Butola were present to oversee the operations. 
 
While the operation was conducted under the aegis of HQ CAC, Bamrauli Allahabad, Air Force Station Bakshi Ka Talab Station Commander, Gp Capt J Suares and his team, were responsible for the overall control and coordination of the exercise.
 
On site arrangements were made for a Mobile Air Traffic Control, Radar Control, Meteorological Facility, Aerospace Safety and Security Control. In addition, to deal with any situation, crash, firefighting, rescue and medical teams were positioned. IAF sought assistance from State Government authorities for temporary closure of the expressway and other matters like crowd control, and so on.
 
A large number of police personnel were stationed along the stretch to ensure smooth conduct of operations.
 
The exercise commenced with an impressive short landing by the C-130 which on its landing roll itself started offloading the Garud commandos and their vehicle in a manoeuvre called Combat ERO (Engine Running Offload). Immediately on disembarking from the  C-130, the commandos took up position on either side of the airstrip to cordon it off for the fighter operations. 
 
This was followed by two sets of 3-3 Mirages, five SU30s and three Jaguars.   All 14 fighter aircraft carried out a roller/touch and go manoeuvre on the expressway. The C-130 then returned for another short landing to extricate the Garud commandos.
 
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A press release from the Ministry of Defence said that, over the past few years, IAF has been increasing its efforts to utilise certain straight stretches of National Highways for emergency landings. Such highway stretches are planned to be used in emergencies, if an active airport is not available for some reason. These operations increase the flexibility in the use of air power, it said.
 
In addition, use of transport aircraft for quick insertion of forces for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations into civil areas and Special Forces in case of contingencies has been validated, the release said.
 
IAF had carried out landings by fighter aircraft for the first time on the Yamuna expressway on 21 May 2015. The stretch of Agra – Lucknow expressway was earlier activated for the first time for IAF operations in November 2016 in which six fighter aircraft of the IAF landed on the expressway.
 
However, in today's exercise, IAF included the Jaguar fighter aircraft for the first time. Also for the first time, IAF’s C-130J transport aircraft participated in highway landing operations for insertion and extrication of Garud Special Forces. 
 
While today's operations required the closure of a portion of the expressway for road traffic, through the excellent support of the UP State Government and UPEIDA, once the planned works are completed, such road traffic closure will not be required henceforth. Two diversion roads on either side of the airstrip are near completion. In addition, wire fencing on both sides is also being undertaken to keep the airstrip clear of stray animals. Two parking areas for aircraft at both ends of the airstrip are also nearing completion.
 
Several countries like Germany, Sweden, South Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Switzerland, Poland, Singapore, Czechoslovakia and Pakistan have dedicated stretches on their highways and expressways for aircraft to land and take off in emergencies or war like events.
 
"This operation has majorly boosted IAF’s capability to undertake unhindered operations even during non-availability of standard runways. It has demonstrated the expert flying skills of its fighter and transport aircrew, and the capability of its ground crew in activating such expressway airstrips on short notice. Such activations of highway stretches all across India are planned to be practised regularly by the IAF in future," the release added.
 
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Coach of empty rake of Gwalior-Agra passenger train derails at Agra, no one injured

 
Gwalior-Agra passenger train coach derails near Agra Cantt
A coach of the empty rake of the Gwalior-Agra passenger train derailed near the Agra Cantonment railway station here as it was moving to the railway yard for cleaning, but no one was injured in the incident, official sources said.
 
The mishap occurred around 4 am today when the empty rake was being taken to the yard after all the passengers had disembarked, they said.
 
According to them, the third  coach of the rake had derailed and railway staff were able to rerail it soon afterwards.
 
"No one was injured in the incident, and neither was rail traffic affected in any way," they added.
 
Today's incident is the latest in a series of derailments that have occurred in dfferent parts of the country in recent weeks.
 
On August 19, at least 22 passengers died and 106 others suffered injuries when 14 of the 23 coaches of the 18477 Utkal Express, from Puri in Odisha to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, derailed at Khatauli, about 25 km from Muzzafarnagar, in Uttar Pradesh.
 
On August 23, at least 49 passengers suffered injuries when 12 coaches and the engine of the 12225 Azamgarh-Delhi Kaifiyat Express derailed in Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh after a dumper collided with the train at an unauthorised crossing.
 
On August 25, five passengers suffered minor injuries when the four front coaches of a local train from Andheri to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) derailed in the railway yard near Mahim South in Mumbai.
 
On August 29, nine coaches and the engine  of the 12290 Duronto Express from Nagpur to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Mumbai derailed between Vasind and Asangaon in Maharashtra but none of the passengers was injured.
 
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5 dead, 40 injured as tanker rams into two tractor-trolleys near Agra

 
Five dead, 40 injured as oil tanker hits two tractor-trolleys
At least five people died and about 40 others suffered injuries when a speeding oil tanker rammed into two tractor-trolleys carrying about 60 pilgrims at Sikandra on the Agra-Mathura highway in Uttar Pradesh late last night.
 
The tractor-trolleys, carrying the pilgrims from Etah district to Mathura for the Govardhan parikrama, had stopped at a wayside restaurant when the tanker crashed into them, police sources said.
 
Residents of nearby areas, police and other emergency personnel rushed to the spot and helped remove the injured to the Agra Medical College Hospital.
 
Traffic on the highway was disrupted for about two hours as the rescue efforts were being made.
 
According to the sources, four of the victims died on the spot while one succumbed to injuries later.
 
The cabin of the oil tanker caught fire in the accident, but the tanker itself was not full, they added.
 
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The City of the Taj is a good option for a short getaway

 
We wanted to take a short break from Delhi recently and, after considering various options in the region, zeroed in on Agra. Most of us had been there before, but not together as a family. And one of us had not visited the place,  and that was  good enough reason to make the trip to the city of the Taj -- the monument of love.
 
Summer is  not the best time to visit Agra, but we had no choice as far as the dates were concerned. 
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal
 
Our last trip was about a decade ago (and that, too, was in June!). Since then,  the 165-km six-lane controlled Yamuna Expressway from Greater Noida, near Delhi, to  Agra has opened, cutting the travel time considerably. That is the route we took, and it was one of the smoothest drives we have had in India, with the journey taking about three hours. We made sure the driver of our Toyota Innova stayed well within the speed limits and stuck to his lane, and that made the trip enjoyable, without the tension associated with travel on wide highways.
 
This is the expressway on which an Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage-2000 successfully landed near Mathura on May 21, 2015 as part of the IAF's plans to use national highways for emergency landings by fighter aircraft. That will give you some idea of the quality of the highway and you cannot help feeling a sense of pride as you race ahead.
 
From Delhi, we drove through Noida and then Greater Noida and before long we were on the Yamuna Expressway. We left around 1 pm on a Sunday afternoon, after brunch, but the efficient air-conditioning in the car meant that we did not suffer on account of the heat outside. Our aim was to reach Agra long before sundown, and that we did, with more than a couple of hours to spare.
A view of the mosque at Fatehpur Sikri
A view of the mosque at Fatehpur Sikri
Once you leave Greater Noida, there is not much to see on the way to Agra. The expressway does not pass through any towns and there is hardly any inhabitation for long stretches, unlike the National Highway (NH)-2, which is the older and longer route and passes through towns such as Faridabad, Ballabhgarh and Mathura.
 
It may not be a very wise decision to drive in the night on this route, given the stories you read in the newspapers about crimes on the highway. Ideally, you should leave early in the morning and try and reach Agra by noon. Winter is the best time to visit Agra, but you have to be very careful because of the thick fog that is likely in these parts and the consequent traffic risks.
 
Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri
There are three toll plazas along the expressway at Jewar (38 km), Mathura (94 km) and Agra (150 km). Jewar, by the way, is the place where a new international airport has been planned, one which will bring Agra even closer to tourists from other parts of India and abroad. All three have good food courts and other facilities, including reasonably clean toilets. We are the sort who like to stop for short breaks on road journeys and we did this at Jewar on the way out and just outside Agra and Mathura on the way back. There is a wide choice of food and drinks, especially at Mathura and Jewar, and there were lots of families enjoying themselves in these food courts.
 
There are any number of options at Agra as far as hotels are concerned -- from luxury properties to modest ones. On our previous trip, we had got a good deal from the Taj. This time, we  booked ourselves rooms at Sterling Holidays' Agra Regal Vista for our stay. It is small hotel but quite exceeded our expectations. The check-in was a smooth process, the rooms were comfortable, all the fixtures worked, and room service and housekeeping were effficient. We took the breakfast-dinner package and enjoyed the food at each of the meals. The spread was limited, but the quality was good and consistent. What we appreciated even more was the restaurant's and the hotel's willingness and ability to respond to our requests. A good place to stay for those travelling on a budget and well located on Fatehabad road in the city.
 
What many people try and do is to make a day-trip to Agra and squeeze everything into a few hours. But we think it is much better to stay in the city for a couple of days and enjoy at leisure what the Taj and other monuments have to offer.
 
Based on our experience from the previous time, we asked the hotel to arrange for guides for us, and they found us two -- one for Fatehpur Sikri and the other for Agra on the following day. These guides were slightly more expensive but much better than the ones we would otherwise have ended up picking at the monuments. 
The Angoori BaghEntrance to Agra FortA view of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort
The Angoori Bagh; Entrance to Agra Fort; A view of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort
After a quiet evening and a relaxed dinner, we set out early next morning for Fatehpur Sikri, a fascinating city built by Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century about 36 km from Agra. Legend has it that Akbar, then 26, did not have an heir and went to a saint, Shaikh Salim Chishti, who lived at Sikri. He blessed Akbar, who had three sons after that. As a gesture, he built a whole new city in Sikri and named it Fatehpur Sikri, the City of Victory. It is a superb example of the splendour of Mughal architecture and has featured in many Bollywood movies. It was meant to be a joint capital with Agra, but was soon deserted because it did not have a proper water supply system. 
 
Fatehpur Sikri is a fine example of a combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture and attracts thousands of tourists from around the world today. There is a fair bit of walking to do to see all the structures, but they are worth every bit of the effort you make. In particular, the Diwan-I-Khas, the Panch Mahal, a five-storeyed building which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding areas, the tomb of Salim Chishti, Buland Darwaza, the 54-metre high gateway built in 1575 and the Diwan-I-Aam and the Jama Masjid are some of the major attractions. Listed as a World Heritage structure by UNESCO, Fatehpur Sikri is clearly one of the places people must visit at least once in their lives.
 
We were back in Agra by noon and, after a quick lunch, went to the Taj Mahal. Again, there is a lot of walking involved, and it would be a good idea to equip yourselves with a bottle or two of drinking water. 
 
Even if you have been to the monument before and have seen hundreds of pictures, nothing quite prepares you for the majestic beauty of the structure when you first set eyes on it from the gateway. You will be overcome by a variety of emotions as you enter the complex and slowly walk towards the mausoleum.
 
Before that, we hired the services of a photographer, who took pictures of us outside the entrance and then at various points inside the complex. At the end, when you come out, you get an album of pictures.
 
As is well-known, the monument, often described as poetry in marble and one of the wonders of the modern world, was constructed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1630 A.D. Its construction began in 1632 and was completed in 1648. More than 20,000 workers were said to have been employed to build the mausoleum. It stands on a raised, square platform (186 feet x 186 feet) and is a part of a vast complex that includes a large garden, a mosque and several other grand buildings. 
 
As things turned out, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in the Agra Fort for nine years, which he spent just gazing at the Taj Mahal across the Yamuna.
A part of the Agra FortA part of the Agra FortThe Diwan-e-Aam at Agra Fort
A part of the Agra Fort; A part of the Agra Fort; The Diwan-e-Aam at Agra Fort
Agra Fort, which we visited next morning, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, about 2.5 km northwest of the Taj Mahal. It was built by Akbar in red sandstone and served as his residence and military strategic headquarters. The vast complex has splendid palaces in red sandstone and marble, built by Akbar and later Jehangir and Shah Jahan. Among the buildings that have survived are such exquisite structures as the Sheesh Mahal (Glass Palace), the royal dressing room adorned by mirror-like glass-mosaic decorations on the walls; the Diwan-I-Aam, where ordinary people could communicate with the rulers and which once housed the Peacock Throne; and the Diwan-i-Khas, a private hall where the emperor met kings and other dignitaries.
 
There also the Anguri Bagh, Khas Mahal, a white marble palace, various mosques, and Musamman Burj, an octagonal tower with a balcony facing the Taj Mahal.
 
Other places of interest in Agra include Sikandra, the mausoleum of Akbar; Itmad-ud-daula, the tomb of Mir Ghiyas Beg, a minister in the court of Shah Jahan and the first tomb in India that was entirely made of marble; and the Red Taj Mahal, the tomb of Dutch soldier John William Hessing built by his wife Ann Hessing in his memory after his death in 1803. 
 
Tourism is a major contributor to Agra's economy but the city has a lot of manufacturing units, too. Among other things, it is known for its leather industry.
 
An important fact we noticed was that the city appeared to be a much cleaner place as compared to what it was on our earlier visit. Also, there are now any number of good restaurants. We tried one of them, Pind Baluchi, and enjoyed the experience.
 
All in all, thanks to the expressway, Agra is a good destination for a weekend getaway from Delhi.
 
Photographs: Kevin Verghese Sam
 
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Ten dead as car plunges into canal in Mathura district of UP

 
10 dead as car falls into canal in Mathura
Ten persons died when the car they were travelling in veered off the road and plunged into a canal in Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday morning, official sources said.
 
The victims included nine persons, who were related to each other, were on their way from Bharatpur to a temple at in Rajasthan when the mishap occurred around 4.30 am near Mogarra village on the Mathura-Jajampatti road.
 
The driver of the car also died in the accident, the sources said. 
 
A crane was used to pull the car out of the water and the bodies of all the victims had been recovered, they said.
 
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14 people dead after truck plunges into roadside canal in Etah district of UP

 
14 dead, 23 injured in Uttar Pradesh road mishap
As many as 14 people died when a truck carrying them veered off the road and fell into a roadside canal in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh in the early hours of today.
 
At least 23 others suffered injuries in the mishap and were initially treated at a nearby hospital before being referred to the Sarojini Naidu Medical College and Hospital in Agra, where six have been admitted for treatment and the rest discharged.
 
Etah District Magistrate Amit Kishore told NetIndian over the telephone that the accident occurred around 3 am today when the group, which belonged to Nagaria village in the Shamshabad area of Agra district, were returning home after attending a "tilak" ceremony in Jalesar of Etah district.
 
The mishap occurred near Sarai Neem in Jalesar area of Etah district, Mr. Kishore said.
 
According to various accounts, the driver of the truck appeared to have lost control over the vehicle and it crashed through the railings and plunged into the canal, which had about two feet of water. The driver was among those who died in the incident.
 
Mr. Kishore, the Superintendent of Police and other senior officials rushed to the scene to oversee the rescue and relief efforts.
 
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the mishap and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the next-of-kin of the deceased men and Rs. 50,000 each for those seriously injured. 
 
"My thoughts are with all those who lost their loved ones in the accident in Etah, UP. May those injured in the accident recover quickly," he said.
 
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