January 23, 2021 2:00:08 am
AN 11-FT tall statue of Bal Thackeray, the centerpiece of Shiv Sena’s birth anniversary celebrations of its founder on Saturday, has found itself in a controversy with residents of Colaba opposing the structure that has been installed on a busy roundabout near Regal Cinema.
The statue, the first of Thackeray in the city, is coming up at the busy roundabout between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and National Gallery of Modern Art on M G Road. The Sena had proposed the statue a year ago. It was supposed to come up at traffic island opposite Regal Cinema and near Maharashtra Police Headquarters. The party had subsequently decided to change the site to the opposite side of the road after it realised that the space where the statue was coming up was too small to accommodate visitors. This change of site had delayed the unveiling ceremony, which was expected to take place on January 23, 2020.
A senior BMC official said, “The statue is 9-ft tall, set on a 2-ft high landscaped portion within the traffic island. The site was changed to allow visitors more space, as the earlier traffic island area was very small and could not hold many people.” Artist Shashikant Wadke has created the statue. There is no clarity on its cost.
Citizen groups from Colaba have opposed the statue being installed at traffic island citing a 2013 Supreme Court order that had said that state governments should not allow any statues on public roads and pavements.
Vice-admiral (retd) I C Rao, who heads NGO Apli Mumbai, has written to the city collector demanding that permission for the statue be denied.
“Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Chowk is a busy roundabout with an unfamiliar computerised system of traffic lights. This results in tourists and visitors being caught unawares by fast moving traffic. We reiterate that the erection of a statue at a traffic island in Shyama Prasad Mukherjee chowk will create a traffic hazard, affecting the safety of pedestrians, visitors who may indulge in taking selfies or merely stop on the carriageway to view the statue,” Rao wrote.
The BMC is, however, insistent that the statue unveiling will go ahead and all requisite clearances have been secured from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee, the state home department and the city collector.
“The proposal of installing statues has been in the public domain for over two years. That time nobody objected. The BMC has secured all required permissions, including traffic police NOC. If there was a problem, they should have approached authorities before the permissions were granted. There are many other statues in the premises… no traffic issues have come up. I can’t understand the intention behind the complainant,” said Mayor Kishori Pednekar.
The Sena has invited leaders from across the political spectrum for the unveiling of the statue on Saturday. Party leaders said that NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Congress leader and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis, have been invited. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar as well as Sena leader and Industries Minister Subhash Desai will also attend.
The event will be held at the Shyama Prasad Mookherjee in Fort around 6 pm.
Meanwhile, the Sena founder’s birth anniversary will be celebrated in government and semi-government offices across the state from this year. Recently, the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led general administration department had included his father’s name in the list of birth anniversaries of great national personalities that would be celebrated by the government.
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