Former UP chief minister Mayawati’s dream project, the Rs. 675-crore Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden, could turn out to be a white elephant. And there are plenty in the park -- 24 elephant statues to be precise -- serving as a metaphor for a grand dream which is more political than practical.
Within the first six days of its opening, the poor response of the public has left officials wracking their brains on how to meet the operating costs of the sprawling park, spread over 82 acres of land in Sector 93 along the Delhi-Noida border.
As per official estimates, the monthly running cost of the park is something between Rs. 80 lakh to Rs. 1 crore.
The park was commissioned by Mayawati when she was chief minister but dismissed by her opponents as self-propaganda. Work on the project was once stopped by the Supreme Court over environmental concerns but was later given the green ahead.
In last six days, just 4,710 visitors entered the park earning the authorities Rs. 47,100.
Officials said they had expected 5,000 to 10,000 visitors daily.
According to official figures, only 378 tickets were sold on the second day of its opening as the first day was free
On Sunday, the park witnessed the highest turn-out with 2,564 visitors buying the Rs. 10 per person ticket to gain entry.
On Tuesday, the number of visitors was a meagre 400.
But there are reasons for the visitors to avoid the park.
“Even the basic amenities are missing. There is no proper arrangement of toilet and drinking water. There is just one toilet and visitors have to walk one kilometre to use it. There is no one to guide the visitors,” said Dinesh Kumar, one of the few visitors. The lack of parking facility is also putting off many people.
SC Mishra, senior official of the Noida authority, however said that “mobile toilets” will become operational soon. “And parking facilities for 250 vehicles will be operational by December-end,” he added.
The park has consumed 3,80,000 units of power costing more than Rs. 15 lakhs in the past six months alone (between October 2012 to March 2013).
The Noida authority has been paying an average monthly bill of Rs. 3.5 lakhs to the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) which had sanctioned a 400 KV connection. Officials said that most of the lights at the park stay lit the whole night.
The park boasts of a mini-museum known as the National Dalit Memorial and statues of Dalit leaders who devoted their life for “humanity, equality and social justice” including Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and Mayawati herself.
It also has twenty-four 18-feet high sandstone statues of elephants, the symbol of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The ruling Samajwadi Party did not allow the BSP to run away with all the glory. On the inaugural day the SP distributed 250 cycles – the party’s symbol -- to the “needy”. Needless to say, the BSP boycotted its own project out of political compulsions.