The statue-installing spree of the Uttar Pradesh government that is said to have almost wiped clean the budget of the state cultural department has been taken note of by the Supreme Court.
A number of statues of Chief Minister Mayawati, her mentor and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder Kanshiram and elephant, her party symbol, have been installed in the state over the last few years.
A vacation bench headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari on Monday asked the Mayawati government to respond within four weeks to charges that massive amounts of public fund were wasted in building and installing the statues.
A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the court claimed that 90 per cent of the budget of the state’s culture department was used up for building statues.
Hundreds of crores of rupees from the state budgets for 2008 and 2009 were wasted in glorifying Mayawati, Supreme Court advocate Ravi Kant said in the PIL.
Uttar Pradesh has the lowest literacy rate, high infant mortality rate and highest number of child labourers in the country. As many as 5.90 crore people in the state live below the poverty line (BPL).
A household whose monthly income is below Rs 2,000 is considered a BPL family.
Citing these figures, Kant questioned the rationale behind such a huge expenditure and demanded a CBI probe into the matter.
He also requested the court to lay down guidelines for installation of statues of national leaders by governments at public places.
Terming the PIL as a political interest litigation, Mayawati's close aide and senior advocate S.C. Mishra said it was the work of the BSP leader’s political rivals.
There were several instances of misuse in the Capital he said, specifically mentioning Teen Murti Bhavan. He said the land itself was worth over Rs 5,000 crore.
Earlier appearing on behalf of the state government, senior advocate U.U. Lalit denied that unveiling of 15 statues by Mayawati on June 25 was an attempt to pre-empt the court from ordering a stay.
The court also issued notice to the Election Commission for alleged violation of poll rules and regulations. The petitioners had claimed that the statues came in the way of free and fair elections.