Even as experts have raised questions over the location of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial project after a boat capsized last week, records suggest that the project was originally proposed at Goregaon Film City in 1996 by the then Shiv Sena-BJP government.
According to the government records, the then Chief Minister, Manohar Joshi, a senior Shiv Sena leader, had made an announcement of constructing a grand memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Mumbai during a programme organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Maratha Mahasangh on June 14, 1996. Subsequently, a committee headed by the Guardian Minister for Mumbai was formed in 1997 to submit a report on location and its design, show records.
The records also show that the committee had submitted its report in April, 1999, suggesting that the memorial should be built on a 20-acre land in Goregoan Film City at an estimated expenditure of Rs 70.77 crore. However, the project did not materialise as the Cultural Affairs department, citing security reasons, opposed it.
“It was decided to build the memorial in the Goregoan Film City and the land belongs to the Cultural Affairs department. It refused to give the land, citing security reasons, which has created problem of the location,” Vijaykumar Gavit, minister of state for the General Administ-ration department informed the Legislative Assembly during a discussion on June 1, 2004.
Gavit had said that the department was of the opinion that thousands of the people would visit the memorial, which would affect the security. “The memorial should not be build here as it will affect the Film City…,” Gavit had added.
Meanwhile, the government also examined whether the memorial could be built on the land near the Aarey Dairy. During the 2004 Assembly polls, the Congress and NCP had announced that it would build the memorial in the Arabian Sea.
In 2005, the state government decided to cancel the proposed memorial site at Goregaon Film City and build it in the Arabian Sea instead. In 2008, a memorial site was finalised but the location was changed in February, 2014.
Meanwhile, some experts and organisations have demanded that the project location be changed. Vice-Admiral (retd) I C Rao of APLI Mumbai, a citizens’ group, said the memorial site is unapproachable by any type of passenger boats during the monsoons. Rao asked the project be relocated to the Cross Island. Praveen Gaikwad, state president of the Sambhaji Brigade, a Maratha organisation, said the Memorial should be relocated to a safer venue in Raigad.
However, sources in the Public Works Department said it is difficult to cancel the project in Arabian Sea as the contract agreement has been signed and work orders have already been given.
The project to build the Shivaji statue in the Arabian Sea is a flagship programme of the BJP-led state government.
‘Memorial site, boat mishap unrelated’
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that all apprehensions raised over the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue — from height, cost, tenders and security in the Arabian Sea — following boat mishap are totally misplaced. “We have retained the same site that was finalised by the Congress-NCP government in 1999,” said the CM. He added that the mishap occurred because the boat left the defined route. The boat went too close to the light house. The remaining three boats adhered to the defined route. “If you drive wrong path anywhere, it is bound to lead to mishap,” the chief minister said.
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