PM: Plant trees at Indu Mill; State: But, we don't have the land

After Narendra Modi's Sunday call to plant trees at Ambedkar memorial, RPI (A) lugs sapling to Indu Mills, but is turned away; Maharashtra government yet to receive rights over land from Centre, shrugs MMRDA

Did Prime Minister Narendra Modi lay the foundation for the proposed Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial at Indu Mills just for a photo op ahead of the Bihar elections? This is the question raised by the Republican Party of India (A), after party chief Ramdas Athawale was not allowed to enter the premises the very next day.

Also Read: Work on Dr. Ambedkar memorial in Mumbai to start from November

RPI (A) president Ramdas Athawale arrived with supporters, a band and sapling to Indu Mills, Dadar, in a rath only to be turned away
RPI (A) president Ramdas Athawale arrived with supporters, a band and sapling to Indu Mills, Dadar, in a rath only to be turned away

During the function at Indu Mills on Sunday, the PM had said, “There should be a green patch near the memorial and around 40,000 villages from Maharashtra should come and each plant a tree there. All the states of the country should plant a tree each, and this should also be done by all the countries of the world.”

Read Story: MMRDA sets ball rolling for Ambedkar memorial

PM Narendra Modi and CM Devendra Fadnavis at Indu Mills on Sunday, where Modi laid the foundation stone for the Ambedkar memorial. Pic/PTI
PM Narendra Modi and CM Devendra Fadnavis at Indu Mills on Sunday, where Modi laid the foundation stone for the Ambedkar memorial. Pic/PTI

The following day, Athawale and other RPI (A) members set out to do just this. Armed with a peepul sapling, they arrived at Indu Mills amid much fanfare, only to be stopped at the gate. When they were not allowed in, Athawale called UPS Madan, commissioner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), which is the planning authority for the memorial.

RPI (A) chief Ramdas Athawale and other party members turned up to plant a tree at the compound the day after Modi’s visit, but were not allowed to enter the premises
RPI (A) chief Ramdas Athawale and other party members turned up to plant a tree at the compound the day after Modi’s visit, but were not allowed to enter the premises

According to sources, Madan informed Athawale that no one would be allowed to enter the compound as the state government had still not acquired the land from the Centre. This, despite the fact that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ earlier assurances that the land had already been handed over.

“We had gone to plant a tree, as suggested by PM Narendra Modi. We had taken a peepul tree, but were stopped at the gate. Our leader called Madanji, who told him that the land hadn’t been handed over to the state and hence entry would not be allowed,” said Ashok Nagdive, district president of RPI (A).

Also Read: Centre okays Mumbai's Indu mill land for Ambedkar memorial

Despite attempts to contact him, MMRDA chief Madan was not available for comment. However, in a reply to mid-day, Fadnavis said, “The Cabinet has approved the MoU in which the Centre has given us permission to start construction. Once the compensation is determined, formal ownership mutation can be done. Since the MoU has already been ratified by the Cabinet, there is no problem. Only technical processes remain.”

This still means that the state went ahead with the function on Sunday without an official handover. “It looks like that the government conducted the whole function in a hurry, keeping the Bihar elections in mind. Laying the foundation for a memorial for Ambedkar would send a positive message to the Dalit community in Bihar,” said a senior leader from RPI (A).

Congress sending a message?
The Congress party keeps journalists updated about party activities through its official SMS service. However, on Wednesday, it sent out a message about CM Fadnavis’ event at Dombivli. With the rift widening between BJP and ally Shiv Sena, this message led to quite the buzz within political circles.

Rs 425 crore
Estimated cost of the Ambedkar memorial project, spread across 12 acres of Indu Mills

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