AS far as the Taj Heritage Corridor project is concerned, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati would seem to be like Alice in Wonderland. The project was cleared by the Taj Mission Management Board headed by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary in November 2002. Soon afterwards, the work began in right earnest. A sum of Rs.37 crores was immediately sanctioned for the project, of which Rs.17 crores was released, including an advance payment of Rs.13 crores for getting the detailed project report (DPR) made. But the Chief Minister claims that she was ignorant of all this and that Environment Secretary R.K. Sharma took these actions on his own. Sharma has already been suspended for his "misdemeanour", and Mayawati promises that "all those officers who are found guilty when the inquiry report comes in, will be punished. "Why only suspension? I will dismiss them," she said.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi shortly after the controversy broke, she said she had nothing to do with the project because the Mission Management Board had appointed the NPCC to execute the project and "once it had been given to an agency for execution, it is the responsibility of that agency to get the necessary sanctions from the Government of India. The inquiry report will reveal who was at fault and where," she said. She, however, was at pains to assert that she had taken the initiative to get the project stopped, not Jagmohan. "Jagmohanji ko pata nahin hai, par maine unke kahne ke pahle hi kaam band kara diya tha." (Jagmohanji does not know, but I had already ordered stoppage of work even before he told me to do so.) "The Taj is our heritage and I will not allow any construction around it that will disturb it," she said. The inquiry is being conducted by N.C. Bajpayi, Principal Secretary, Finance. But Mayawati has already given a clean chit to herself, the Chief Secretary and the State Environment Minister.