Even as Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar performed “bhoomipujans” of eight PCMC projects on Sunday, a project that he inaugurated a year ago has run into a controversy. The cost of the project — a mural of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namdev at Wadmukhwadi — has jumped three times, with the ruling NCP, using its majority, managing to get the hike approved at the recent general body meeting of the corporation.
On May 25, 2013, when Pawar performed the “bhoomipujan” of the project, its cost was estimated at Rs 6.16 crore, which had been revised to Rs 7 crore a few days later. Last month, the PCMC general body approved a proposal that pegged the project cost at Rs 20 crore.
PCMC City Engineer Mahavir Kamble Sunday denied that his office put forth the proposal of constructing the mural at Rs 20 crore. “The tender process of constructing the mural at Rs 7 crore has already started. I don’t think we will need Rs 20 crore. At best, we will need Rs 1.5 crore more for various civil works like garden,” he said.
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Stating that it was true that the proposal of Rs 20 crore was approved in the meeting, he said his office would ensure the entire amount was not spent.
He, as also other officials, had however no answer as to what was the purpose behind approving the hike. While Kamble said Municipal Secretary Ulhas Jagtap’s office would know about it, the latter said his office had prepared the agenda for the meeting and that information about the proposal came from an NCP corporator. “Our role is like that of a postman,” said Jagtap.
When her reaction was sought, NCP corporator Vinaya Tapkari said: “It is true that I moved the proposal to get Rs 20 crore approved for the project. I had done this after some PCMC officers told me that we need to get an increased amount approved in case additional expenditure is needed. Besides the Rs 7 crore, more money would be required to construct other amenities around the mural,” she said.
Municipal Commissioner Rajiv Jadhav, who was with Ajit Pawar, said: “We will ensure that there is transparency in the entire project… I don’t think we will need such a huge amount. I will take full information on the issue and will speak to you on Monday.”
Maruti Bhapkar of Aam Aadmi Party said: “It is impossible to believe that a project cost could escalate to such an extent in barely one year. I hope the PCMC administration is not behind this move. The civic chief should make it public as to how much amount will actually be spent on the mural.”
Civic officials said PCMC never had a mural that cost even Rs 7 crore. The Bhakti-Shakti mural was constructed 20 years ago at Nigdi at a cost of around Rs 2 crore.
The project involves setting up of bronze statues of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namdev depicting their meeting. The weight of Sant Dnyaneshwar statue would be around 3,000 kg while Sant Namdev statue would weigh round 3,600 kg. There would also be statues of Sant Nivrutti, Sant Sopandev and Sant Muktabai. The total weight of the mural will be around 48,000 kg. It would come up in front of the Sai temple at Wadmukhwadi, Charholi, on a 2-acre land, civic officials said.