Drought forces ground-breaking ceremony of Shivaji memorial in Mumbai to be put off till September

Maharashtra government has postponed the ground-breaking ceremony of the Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial in the Arabian Sea scheduled for this month to September-end, citing prevailing drought in the state.

The grand memorial which, among other things, will consist of a record-breaking tall statue of the warrior king mounted on a horse and wielding a sword, has been planned in the sea off the Girgaum Chowpatty coast.

The government's move has invited criticism from the Opposition Congress and NCP, which have alleged the BJP-led ruling coalition is not serious about the issue and is merely playing politics in the name of Shivaji.

"The ceremony for Shivaji Maharaj memorial had been planned keeping in mind his stature. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had even given an assurance of his presence on May 22 when the ground-breaking ceremony was to be performed," Vinayak Mete, Chairman of Shiv Smarak Samiti, told PTI.

The Samiti is overseeing the Maharashtra government's ambitious project.

The Wankhede Stadium in South Mumbai was chosen as the venue for a grand celebration after the foundation laying ceremony and invitation cards, too, were distributed, he said. 

However, given the prevailing drought, it would not be appropriate to organise a grand celebration, Mete said.

"The drought condition in the State is only getting severe by the day. In such a situation, it would not be proper for us to hold grand celebrations in the name of Shivaji Maharaj. Keeping in mind the severe drought, we have decided to postpone it to September-end. The exact date will be finalised based on the PM's availability," said Mete, an MLC. 

Reacting to the development, Congress spokesperson Al-Nasser Zakaria said the government is adopting delaying tactics as it is not ready with a definite plan. 

"The BJP-led government is only interested in playing politics in the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji. They are deliberately delaying the ground-breaking ceremony as they do not have a definite plan for the memorial. The government recently organised a three-day Sindhudurg festival. Did the government not think of water scarcity then?" he asked. 

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said, "This government had used slogans in the name of Shivaji Maharaj while campaigning for the elections. They could have done a small programme and at least commenced work on the memorial. Not doing so only shows the government's lackadaisical attitude over the issue."

The government has already made a provision of Rs 100 crore for the memorial, which is to be completed by 2019. 

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