PM Narendra Modi to attend bhoomipujan for Shivaji memorial next month | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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PM Narendra Modi to attend bhoomipujan for Shivaji memorial next month

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met officials from various departments responsible for implementing the Rs3,000-plus crore project at the site office at Cuffe Parade on Saturday to take stock of its status

mumbai Updated: Nov 07, 2016 13:47 IST
Surendra P Gangan
The memorial of the Maratha warrior assumes political significance in the wake of the ongoing agitations by the Maratha community.
The memorial of the Maratha warrior assumes political significance in the wake of the ongoing agitations by the Maratha community.(Artist’s impression of the memorial.)

Aiming to pacify the Maratha community in the backdrop of massive protests across the state and to woo the Marathi-speaking population in Mumbai ahead of the crucial civic elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has planned a ceremony to lay the foundation stone for its grand Shivaji memorial in the Arabian Sea. The ceremony is to be held in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi next month, said sources.

Read: ‘Construction of Shivaji Memorial will destroy livelihood of 1.5 lakh fishermen’

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met officials from various departments responsible for implementing the Rs3,000-plus crore project at the site office at Cuffe Parade on Saturday to take stock of its status.

He said the bidding process to invite firms to invest in the project was getting a good response and construction was expected to begin early next year.

Read: Maharashtra govt asks NGT to dismiss ‘baseless’ PIL against Shivaji memorial in sea

Vinayak Mete, chairman of the committee appointed to overlook the implementation of the memorial, said the bhoomipujan (foundation stone laying ceremony) of the project will be held next month. After completing the pre-bidding process next month, the technical and commercial bidding will be completed by the end of December. The government will then issue the work order by February. Following this, construction will begin by March-April 2017, said Mete.

The memorial of the Maratha warrior assumes political significance in the wake of the ongoing agitations by the Maratha community. Shivaji is the biggest icon of this community. As their two major demands — reservation and a review of the Atrocities Act — appear to be difficult to comply with, the government has attempted to fulfil their remaining demands. It extended freeships in higher education to the economically-backward section of the community. The memorial is another demand made by the community. By visiting the makeshift office at Cuffe Parade, Fadnavis tried to tell community he was serious about its demands.

The statue will also please the Marathi-speaking population in Mumbai, where the BJP is keen to win the civic polls. Maharashtrians are largest linguistic group in Mumbai.

“The tender procedure has begun and the design has been approved. I am confident that the deadlines will be met and the dream of crores of people will become a reality,” said Fadnavis.

Though fishermen have moved the National Green Tribunal challenging the environment clearances to the project, Mete insisted their objections have no standing. “The clearances were obtained on the basis of reports by noted institutions. During our meeting, we fine-tuned the plan to engage institutions such as IIT-Bombay and the National Institute of Oceanography for consultation during the implementation of the project. The project has to be completed in two phases. The first costs Rs2,500 crore. We set deadlines for each stage during our meeting,” he said.

Why the delay?

The equestrian statue to be built on a 15.96 hectare rock, is 3.5 km into the Arabian Sea. After missing the proposed deadline for the bhoomipujan of the memorial, which was meant to be carried out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is now expected to be done in the next month, before the code of conduct for the BMC elections come into force by December. During high tide, the rock is submerged by nearly 4m of water. During low tide, the entire rock is visible only for about 40 minutes. The bhoomipujan will thus have to be conducted in accordance with the timing of the low tide

The project has been opposed by fishermen who fear it will damage the environment and destroy the fishing industry. The state has pleaded with the National Green Tribunal’s western bench in Pune to dismiss the fishermen’s petition against the construction of the statue terming it “wholly baseless, misconceived and unsubstantiated”

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Saturday that construction is expected to begin early next year

What features will the memorial have?

An art museum exhibiting artifacts of the Maratha warrior and extracts of his inspirational writings, along with maps and land records.

An exhibition displaying a life-size panorama of Shivaji with artistic murals.

An aquarium, facilities for water sports and sound-n-light shows.

A coastal police station with disaster warning facilities.

A hospital — to take care of casualties in emergencies such as tsunami, accidents and those with cardiac problems — has recently been added to the design.

The report by the Mumbai police commissioner suggests a 3-tier security cover involving coast guards, navy, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Mumbai police.

Nearly 3,000 tourists are expected to visit daily.