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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 01:57 GMT 02:57 UK
Hotel group bails out Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal
Tourist facilities are described as woefully inadequate
By Jill McGivering in Delhi

One of the world's most famous monuments - the Taj Mahal - is to start receiving direct corporate sponsorship.

It is a world heritage site, described by its admirers as one of the most beautiful monuments to love.

But it needs help.

The monument and its gardens are badly in need of conservation and repair and, although it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, many say the tourist facilities are woefully inadequate.

Taj facade detail
The marble facade is beginning to discolour
Officials in Delhi signed a two-stage deal on Thursday with the Taj Hotel Group owned by the Tata business group. Almost $400,000 will be spent on some of the most urgent restoration work.

The Taj Hotel Group is also funding a report into a more ambitious second stage.

Plans include the design of a lighting scheme, building an international tourist centre with restaurants, shops and toilets and developing the river front.

Controversy

The Indian Government launched a national fund more than four years ago to raise outside cash for monuments.

This is by far the most high profile result and may also prove controversial.

Some critics are dubious about such a direct link between a priceless monument and the commercial sector.

India's tourism minister told the BBC the Tata group would get some leverage in corporate advertising connected with the Taj Mahal, but said there would be safeguards to make sure it was appropriate.

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