Union environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s gift to the city has been an 'in-principle go ahead' for the proposed 312ft equestrian statue of Shivaji in the Arabian Sea.
In a year before the polls, the government undoubtedly sees this as a good decision to whip up populist regional sentiment for the DF government battling anti-incumbency in 2014.
But, several Mumbaiites battling the daily commute in a congested city were hoping that other pending infrastructure projects such as the coastal road or the Metro II corridor, which got a 'positive consideration' from the minister, would get clearance as well.
Natarajan chose to stress on clearances for two monuments — Shivaji’s memorial in the Arabian Sea and Dr Babasaheb's memorial at Indu Mills, Shivaji Park.
“Instead of pushing development, the government seems to be keen on appeasing a section of voters playing the regional card,” said a senior government official.
However, the move to allow the memorial has raised questions as to why the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) laws can be amended for the Shivaji monument, but not for the coastal road?
The road is touted to cut down travel time from Nariman Point to Versova by more than half.
Defending the move, senior government officials said other infrastructure projects would follow soon.
“It was a positive meeting. The coastal road project has been given priority.
We are making an out-of-turn presentation before the the National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA) next week.
The Shivaji memorial proposal was scrutinised by the Centre's appraisal committee last week,'' said another official, requesting anonymity.
The irony is that even after the in-principle approval, the memorial, which requires 20 to 40 feasibility studies including geo technical investigation on structural stability, coastal modelling, marine biodiversity, etc, is unlikely to take-off any time soon.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had presented a rather long wish list before Natarajan.
And many of the issues including a car depot for the Metro's second corridor and Navi Mumbai airport that should have been resolved have only got a small push.
In 2004, the DF government had promised this statue in its election manifesto. In 2009, the government worked out the project cost at Rs350 crore, but the site was not finalised and there was no concept proposal.