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Memorial in sea, at what cost?

Once again, the state government has revived its ambitious plan to build a grand memorial for King Shivaji in the Arabian Sea off the Mumbai coast, writes Shailesh Gaikwad.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2013 01:24 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad

Once again, the state government has revived its ambitious plan to build a grand memorial for King Shivaji in the Arabian Sea off the Mumbai coast.

A grand memorial that would let the world know who Shivaji was could be a matter of pride for Maharashtrians. The question being asked by Maharashtrians like me is: Why should the memorial be built in the sea? It would not only mean spending hundreds of crores of rupees of taxpayers' money but also damage the fragile ecology of the area.

Significantly, the state government itself was divided over the plan. A section of ministers led by deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar wanted a realistic project. They even pointed out that the central environment ministry was not keen on granting environment clearance which also means it would take several years before the actual construction would begin. So, instead of misleading people, it would be better to build it elsewhere, the ministers advised the government. The state administration was even asked to consider the land under government dairy at Worli seafront and a plot in Wadala for the purpose. However, it seems, the game of political one-upmanship has prevailed over other options.

In fact, several rational suggestions were made to the government. One of them was to restore Fort Raigad-capital of Shivaji's Maratha empire-to its original glory and make that a monument for the most popular historical figure of Maharashtra. This makes more sense when one takes a look at most of the forts in Maharashtra (state has 350-odd forts) that are in bad shape and crying for attention. But then, protecting these forts won't bring votes and politicians from ruling parties are looking for something that they can use to seek votes of the Maratha community. Sadly, issues like giving relief to people suffering from drought in central Maharashtra or doing away with power shortage or bringing stringent laws to make women safer are not a priority for our politicians.

Dearth of capable officers in the administration…
During a recent cabinet meeting, some of the ministers lost their cool over the issue of cabinet note on new industrial policy. It began with an officer holding charge of industries department telling industries minister Narayan Rane that the minister need not sign a cabinet note of his department. Expressing surprise, public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal advised chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to appoint a full-time secretary for a crucial department like industries. Officers holding additional information do not get time to remember the norms, he remarked. This further led to ministers pointing out that several crucial posts did not have full-time officers which was also affecting governance. So, is there really a shortage of good officers in the state administration? If one takes a look at the list of 300-plus IAS officers serving in Maharashtra, this doesn't seem to be the case. The problem lies elsewhere. It is the mistrust-within ruling parties as well as the government. The Congress does not want certain officers to be put in key places since it thinks they are close to NCP ministers. And then the NCP ministers have similar objections to some "pro-Congress'' officers. In addition to this, the CM camp itself has reservations over certain officers. What is the way out? Nobody knows!