Agra: The annual 10-day Taj Mahotsava will begin from February 19, a day late, to enable a busy Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to inaugurate it, an official said on Thursday.

But the move has angered the tourism industry in Agra. The cultural extravaganza will be delayed by a day due to the chief minister's busy schedule, a district administration official said.

"The tourists are pointlessly inconvenienced. The event is now on international calendar. Those who come on February 18 will be deprived of an opportunity to see the Taj Mahotsava that showcases India's rich culture and handicrafts," tourism industry leader Rajiv Tiwari said.

Organised by the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department, the 10-day cultural extravaganza was designed to attract foreign visitors. The healthy and cool February ambience provides the right kick for a whole lot of outdoor activities. With Basant Panchmi on Friday and Valentine's Day on Thursday, the mood is set for revelry and fun for the romantically inclined.

Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt is set to perform during the event on February 20 and Jaswinder Narula will perform on February 22. Tourism Guild's former president Rajeev Narain said: "Though the number of tourists and local visitors to the Taj Mahotsava has been going up, the failure on the part of the organisers to attract foreign tourists calls for a thorough review of our strategies and efforts.

"Former president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association Sandeep Arora said: "The original objectives of the Mahotsava (of bringing foreign tourists) are not being fulfilled.""I would like the organisers to focus on the Mughal and the Braj culture. The decor, stalls and the staff should be in ethnic wear. The tourist must get a glimpse of the splendour and opulence of the Mughal era," Lav Kush Mishra of Agra University said.

"It should not remain a government show managed by indifferent bureaucrats. The industry too should share some responsibility," said Rajeev Gupta, former president of the National Chamber of Industries and Commerce.

The best thing that can be said about the Taj Mahotsava is that the show has gone on without fail since 1993.  Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, said it is now a 'mela tamasha' for the  locals who are fed on "spurious remix of filmy entertainment" by second-rate performers from Bollywood.

The local tourism industry has lost all hope and has virtually withdrawn from the festival which, many feel, serves no real purpose in terms of tourism promotion.

The tourism industry has virtually no role to play as the district administration has "usurped" all the powers and the officials call the shots, those in the industry alleged.

Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Hotels Association, says, "The administration should learn to creatively interact with people who know what tourism is all about." "The industry leaders should have been given a say. In its present format, the event cannot and has not been much of a help to draw in foreign tourists," Chauhan said.

Indian People's Theatre Association vice-president Jitendra  Raghvanshi said, "the local culture and the local artistes of Braj Mandal should have been given a better share of programmes" and the focus should be on presenting the cultural heritage of this area to the tourists. "They invite film people from Mumbai and spend a lot of money. This does not help promote the essential Braj culture," Raghvanshi said.


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