Public Works Minister Ashok Chavan sought a departmental report on the various irregularities that have surfaced in the proposed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial project in the Arabian Sea. The instructions were issued by Chavan after he reviewed the status of the memorial project on Monday. This was the first meeting held by him to review the project since he took charge as minister in December.
“Officials have been asked to prepare a report on all issues, including environment and tendering procedures,” Chavan said. “The memorial work should be carried out with complete transparency as taxpayers’ money will be used for it.” The issue of objections raised by CAG was also discussed in the state assembly session last week.
Sources said that apart from objections raised by CAG, the issue on how the state government misled the Ministry of Environment and Forests ( MoEF) to obtain the environment clearance was also discussed in the meeting. The safety of the memorial and the tourists, as well as the memorial site not being accessible during monsoon was also discussed, an official said.
“After discussing all the issues, the minister has asked officials to submit a detailed report to them, with comments from concerned departments, so further decisions can be taken on the memorial project,” the official added.
The official also said that the minister explicitly mentioned that the cost optimisation exercise should not have been carried out after the receipt of bids. “Since not much expenditure has been incurred, corrective measures can be taken now,” he said.
Last year, The Indian Express reported extensively on the CAG findings, and how the state government had misled the MoEF on the Memorial site to obtain its clearance. The CAG report observed that the previous government’s decision to reduce the cost of the Memorial by negotiating with the lowest bidder and changing the scope of work has “vitiated the tendering procedure and defeated the objective of transparency in the tendering process.”
The proposed memorial — 212 metres in height, including a 123.2 metre equestrian statue standing atop an 88.8 metre pedestal — was a flagship project of the previous Devendra Fadnavis-led government. It is expected to cost
Rs 3,600 crore. Currently, work on the project has been stalled. The PWD, in January last year, had asked the contractor to stop work days after the SC, while hearing a special leave petition, had orally asked the state to not proceed with the construction of the statue.
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