The state government finds itself in a spot over its proposed mid-sea memorial of warrior king Shivaji off Marine Drive in Mumbai. Team One Architects, whose concept plan for the equestrian statue was approved by the state cabinet under former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on the eve of Assembly elections in 2009, has now filed a writ petition in the Bombay High court challenging the government’s decision to junk the previous plan in favour of a new design by the JJ School of Architecture. The project has been a rallying point for all political parties in the state and has been resurrected by the Congress-NCP combine on the eve of every election since 2004.
The new plans are being reviewed by a high-power committee headed by city’s guardian minister and NCP leader Jayant Patil. “In a meeting of the panel held Wednesday, Public Works Department officials estimated the project will now cost the government upwards of Rs 1,500 crore,” said a government official present at the meeting. When plans for the statue were first announced, it was estimated to cost Rs 100 crore.
While Team One Architects declined to comment, their petition, expected to come up for hearing next week, flays the government for not honouring its previously approved plans. It states that the firm was appointed after a competition was held calling for concept designs for the statue. Of the total 11 submissions, five were selected by a state-level assessment committee and then three were shortlisted by a committee headed by the then chief secretary of the state. Finally in August 2009, just two months before Assembly elections, the cabinet finalised the design by Team One Architects and CM Ashok Chavan along with few of his cabinet ministers conducted bhoomipujan for unveiling the firm’s proposed model in Mantralaya.
The architects have argued that since then, several meetings were held with government departments, the navy and the underground cable service providers. However, despite being given the appointment letter, the execution of an agreement between the government and the firm was kept pending.
Jayant Patil was not available for comment.
The development comes close on the heels of the JJ school of architecture submitting a design that proposes to make the statue world’s tallest. The Congress-NCP combine’s proposed 190-m high equestrian statue would be eight m higher than the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s under-construction Vallabhbhai Patel statue in Gujarat, that was intended to be the tallest until that point. As per Team One’s concept design, the statue was to be 321 ft high, slightly taller than the Statue of Liberty in the US.
The petition also cites an August 2013 letter by the Council of Architecture, the Union government appointed body corporate, pulling up the state government for not signing an agreement with the winner of an architecture competition for four years nor paying him his one per cent fee within a year as mandated by rules.