By Rohit Alok
The state government is considering a proposal to change the venue of the 66th Republic Day celebrations in January next year back to Shivaji Park, as opposed to Marine Drive, which was declared as the new venue for the celebrations by the previous government this year.
According to sources, the proposal was discussed at length at a high-level meeting held at the Sahyadri guest house, between Home Department officials and top police officers last week. The discussion revolved around the venue of the celebrations, which has been held at the Shivaji Park for the past two decades, but was relocated to Marine Drive in January this year.
Sources said the meeting was chaired by Additional Chief Secretary and Chief Protocol Officer Sumit Mallik and was attended by Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Dhananjay Kamalakar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) B K Upadhyay and policemen from the south region of the Mumbai Police, as well as officials from the Defence department and the BMC.
Police officers said Shivaji Park has a proper security protocol in place, which has been fine-tuned with time and experience, as opposed to Marine Drive, which is an “open and exposed venue offering multiple security threats”.
“During the Republic Day celebrations this year, we observed that Marine Drive is a security hazard in the sense that there are multiple entry and exit points and little scope for proper checking of visitors and vehicles. Crowd management also turned out to be a nightmare, with crowds spilling over across the road from the venue of the celebrations. Further, the people had to cross the street to use the public toilets there and then come back, creating a frequent flow of people,” said a senior police officer.
Upadhyay, who confirmed that he had attended the meeting, added, “We are in consensus that we do not want Marine Drive to be the venue of the parade. On the traffic front, it is impossible to keep the traffic rerouted and diverted for the days leading to the event. There are a host of traffic related issues surrounding the parade and the days before the event will be very problematic.”
Another officer said that Shivaji Park, which is a closed space, offers better threat hindrances with its tree foliage, several buildings of uneven levels and several exits.
The police are awaiting the government’s decision on the proposal. Sumit Mallik could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.