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Shivaji statue in Mumbai: Still time to do a rethink?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted the bhoomipujan for the project in December 2016.

mumbai Updated: Mar 06, 2018 00:17 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted the bhoomipujan for the project in December 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted the bhoomipujan for the project in December 2016.(FILE)

The Maharashtra government has finally selected a contractor for the grand memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji that would be built in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai coast. Last week, the government gave formal intimation to reputed engineering company, Larsen and Toubro, to build the memorial on the lines of the Statue of Liberty in New York. The estimated cost of the project is Rs2,500 crore, after the contractor reduced its original bid of Rs3,826 crore during the negotiations with the government. The actual work may start in a few months. The government expects the first phase of the project to be ready in three years.

The speciality of the BJP-run governments, whether at the Centre or in the states, is that they do not waste time in taking up the projects that are significant—politically or in some other way. Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted the bhoomipujan for the project in December 2016. Little over a year after the same, the government has selected the contractor and aims to start the work on the project in the first half of 2018. This is sharp in contrast with the Congress-led governments. They could not do much despite announcing the project more than a decade ago. In the current regime, the leadership at the Centre takes an initiative and supports the decisions taken at the state level. This was seen in case of some other projects too. The long pending Navi Mumbai international airport is another example. Work on the much-needed second airport of Mumbai is expected to start soon after PM Modi laid foundation stone for the same last month.

Though it has tried to start work on the Shivaji memorial as early as it could, the Fadnavis government and all political parties in Maharashtra should still consider the concerns raised by various sections over the impact on marine ecology, the lives of fisherfolk and the cost involved. The current estimated cost of Rs2,500 crore may shoot up in the future considering the fact that project will take a few years to complete and there are chances of cost escalation. Is it late to look at other options?

The grand memorial is about Shivaji’s legacy. There are more than 300 forts in Maharashtra that are lying in bad shape. Many of them are built by King Shivaji. There have been demands from various groups that the government should pick a few of these ancient forts and turn them into magnificent monuments. There were suggestions for complete restoration of Raigad (which was Shivaji’s capital) and Shivneri (where the Maratha king was born) forts and make them major tourist attractions as well. It would have cost a small part of the money that would be spent on the mid-sea memorial.

The political parties are also keen on the memorial because the issue is sensitive for the Maratha community that reveres King Shivaji. In such a case, wouldn’t it make sense to do something such as setting up a research centre in the name of the Maratha king to make farming more profitable, find out low cost methods for farmers and use technology to make their occupation better? Majority of Maratha community members are farmers and farming is no more a profitable occupation for most of them. The government can also consider setting up dedicated centers for training and guiding Maratha youths for jobs that are available. Thousands of Maratha youth sell their land or take loans to get admission in private professional colleges and pay their hefty fees. Still, it does not guarantee them jobs. That is a major reason why there is demand for reservation in government jobs. However, these kinds of suggestions will be considered by the government only if all political parties come together. It seems difficult now though it is still not late for the same.

When Sena is all praises for Deodhar

Following ally BJP’s victory in the North East, Shiv Sena has lauded the efforts taken by BJP in charge of Tripura Sunil Deodhar in winning elections in the state. The Sena mouthpiece was all praise for the Mumbaikar Marathi manoos for ensuring party’s victory in Tripura. Of course there is a catch. The Saamana editorial goes on to say: “So far, only two persons were known for winning elections for the BJP. Now there is a third one…”

The remark is self-explanatory considering there is no love lost between Modi -Shah and the Sena.