As the country remembers Dalit icon Baba Saheb Ambedkar on his birth anniversary on Saturday, the decision of the Madhya Pradesh government to change technical specifications for the construction of his memorial at his birth place in Mhow town, near Indore, has sparked a controversy.
The architect of the memorial, ED Nimgade in a letter to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on February 8, protested the 'unilateral decision' of Babasaheb Ambedkar Smarak Nirman Samiti chaired by state Forest and Transport Minister Himmat Kothari to alter the technical specifications of the project on the plea of bringing down project's cost.
In the letter, copy of which is available with PTI, Nimgade said, "Due to this unilateral, arbitrary and illegal decision of the Samiti, the original quality, aesthetics and unique features of this project are completely lost and this may give rise to a public outcry."
He said, "The decision was taken by Samiti in my absence and also that of the custodian of the memorial, Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial Society.
However, PWD executive engineer KC Jain, in-charge of the project denied that Nimgade's approval was not taken before changing the technical specifications. His consent is there on papers, he contended.
But Nagpur-based Nimgade said that he was informed about the meeting on the same day and therefore, it was not possible for him to attend the meeting on such a short notice.
In view of the stature of Ambedkar and his international appeal, the architect has recommended using 20mm thickness makrana mines marble because of its superb quality. But the Samiti overruled his suggestion and decided to purchase 15mm thickness marble of fine non-makrana quality.
Nimgade contended "while cutting 15 mm marble an intense heat is produced and due to this its 5mm thick layer on either side loses the quality of marble.
"A residual central layer of 5 mm thickness thus left in it cannot withstand the assault of weather for a longer period and defects like twisting, fading of white into yellow and formation of cracks start developing in the memorial."
Due to this reason only, 20 mm minimum thickness of marble is specified all over India in government work, he said. Similarly, the Samiti, in place of fibre ceiling specified by the architect, decided to use plaster of paris for ground floor ceiling which requires frequent repairs and replacement, the architect said.
For the dome of the memorial also the architect had recommended aluminium composite ceiling, but the Samiti decided to go for plastering to inner surfaces of dome with white cement and painting.
"This would result in poorer aesthetics and bad acoustics," the architect said, adding even for the outer dome instead of 50-35 mm thick marble cladding the samiti decided to use marble tiles against his opinion.
"Even though I was not in favour of these dilutions, I had to specify it under protest as dictated by above government smara nirman samiti after its meeting," Nimgade said in the letter.