A city-based chartered accountant has approached the Bombay high court challenging the state government’s ambitious plan to construct a Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial in the Arabian Sea.
In a public interest litigation (PIL) filed on January 4, Mohan Bhide said the state’s decision to construct a 192-m-high statue of the Maratha warrior king at the cost of Rs3,600 crore was illogical and uncalled for.
“I have full respect and honour for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj,” states the PIL. “But, I am against the huge expenditure of taxpayers' hard-earned money. Constructing a statue in the middle of the sea is nothing but a stunt by all the state’s political parties,” it adds.
Bhide’s lawyer mentioned the petition for urgent hearing before a division bench of chief justice Manjula Chellur and justice Girish Kulkarni on Thursday. The bench, however, refused to hear the matter on an urgent basis.
“Have you [Bhide] seen the statue at Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu or the statue at Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad?” the chief justice asked the petitioner’s lawyer. “If those state governments can afford the statues, we are sure the Maharashtra government can afford this, as it is richer,” she added.
Bhide asked the high court to direct the state government to scrap the project. “The state government spent Rs77 crore only to host the opening ceremony. All this expenditure — at a time when the government is facing a financial crunch itself — is unnecessary,” he said.
Last year, the government declared more than 25,000 villages ‘drought-hit’, states the PIL, which insists that the state focus on addressing this first. “The public is not concerned with the building of such memorials. We expect the state to provide a better standard of living and better public amenities. It should prioritise this,” the PIL states.
It added that if political parties wanted to construct a memorial for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, they should have first taken steps to maintain the forts built by the Maratha king and his descendents across the state. “Many of these forts are in a dilapidated condition and the government has not taken any measures to maintain them,” said Bhide.