With rising pressure from the opposition and with an eye on the upcoming polls, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday to request him to hand over a 12-acre India United Mill plot for the proposed Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial.
Several Buddhist monks and followers of Dr Ambedkar, led by his grandson Anandraj Ambedkar, have been camping at the India United Mill, or Indu Mill, premises at Prabhadevi since December 6, when they forcibly entered the premises. They have been demanding that the plot be turned into a memorial for Dr Ambedkar.
“I have requested the Prime Minister to expedite the process of handing over the Indu Mill land for creating the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial,” Chavan said after his meeting with Singh. “We wrote to the Centre on August 8 for the same, and we are positive that the request will come through,” he added.
The National Textile Corporation (NTC) that owns the Indu mill land wants a reciprocal benefit in exchange for the land. This is something the Centre has not been able to settle satisfactorily. Originally, the state had requested for only 4 acres of the plot for the memorial. The NTC, in turn, had sought de-reservation of the remaining 8 acres, with additional FSI. The state thereafter asked for the entire 12 acres for the memorial.
Both Congress and NCP have put the memorial and the proposed renaming of Dadar station on their election manifestos in a bid to woo the Dalit votebank. The Dalits comprise nearly 15% of the state's voters and can significantly impact polls in cities like Mumbai, Nashik and Thane.
Chavan also requested the PM to help the state by bailing out debt-ridden cotton, soybean and paddy farmers. The CM intends to announce a bailout package in the upcoming winter session, for which he has sought help and advice from the Centre. This despite union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar ruling out any help from the Centre.