Shivaji memorial row: Mishap revives demand to move statue inland
Influential Maratha organisation wants government to accept that the marine project is not feasible
Chhatrapati Shivaji built a powerful Navy that consolidated the Maratha empire. But, it seems his followers and those behind the idea of a marine memorial for him have much to learn about the sea. The tragedy that left a person dead at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial site, has revived a demand to shift the ambitious Rs 2,800-crore project on land in the city.
Incidentally, one of the largest and most influential organisations that reveres Shivaji, the Maratha Seva Sangh, has made the demand, as also an urban activist who has been writing to the government and politicians, to think about the marine project, which could be unviable.
Siddhesh Pawar died when a boat that some government officials, political workers and journalists were travelling in, hit a rock and capsized on Wednesday afternoon, in the Arabian Sea. They had been invited to the memorial site where the work was to begin formally.
People on the boat being helped ashore on Wednesday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
'Use Raj Bhavan site'
Maratha Seva Sangh's national president Purushottam Khedekar told mid-day that instead of a rock in the sea, the Raj Bhavan site can be used for the memorial. The governor's residence can be built by demolishing the ministerial quarters opposite Mantralaya, he said. Khedekar has raised nine points to prove how the memorial, if built in the sea, would be unfeasible in many aspects.
Ravi Nair, a civic activist, said the memorial with a taller equestrian statue and all other facilities that have been planned on the sea rock, could be built with Rs 900 cr in the centre of the city, preferably on one of the existing hills. He said the remaining amount could be used to give financial impetus to the city's public transport and help debt-ridden farmers.
Nair said, 'I had written to the government, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, and even met the president of the memorial committee, Vinayak Mete. My pleas fell on deaf ears.
'A trick to woo people'
"My demand may hurt the sentiments of the people, but the people concerned should consider the dangers that nature would pose the future. Firstly, it will take years to build the memorial in the sea and will need a lot of public money. The memorial, if built on a hill, will be visible and approachable to all. Imagine the people seeing Shivaji Maharaj's stature from all sides," he said.
Khedekar said the memorial had become an unnecessary political race. "It's a trick to woo the people. Maratha Seva Sangh was the first to ask for a memorial on land in 1995. We had given a memorandum to then chief minister Manohar Joshi and requested the use of 300 acres of land in Gorai. Now we demand that the Raj Bhavan land at Malabar Hill be used," he said.
Sea of issues
He said the memorial at Malabar Hill will be open around the year whereas the rough sea will not allow the passenger ferry to the rock most of the time of the year. We may need a daily schedule, depending on the weather every day. A lot of time will be consumed in travelling. The travel and recreation cost wouldn't be affordable to all, said Khedekar.
"There is no guarantee that the incident that happened yesterday will not recur in the future. And there is no guarantee that the money allotted would suffice as the cost of construction will surely escalate," said Khedekar.
Sena demands criminal action
The Shiv Sena has taken a tough stand over carelessness that was shown by the state machinery and the political bosses of the memorial committee. The party's MP Sanjay Raut said the officials and politicians responsible for the death should face police action.
Raut said there was no need to take so many people to the memorial site. "Have you seen any political leader and others going to the site of the upcoming statue of Sardar Patel? Wednesday's event was not needed at this stage," said Raut.
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