MORE THAN four months since commencing work on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial Project in the Arabian Sea, the state PWD is now re-assessing the stance of the statue, considering whether the warrior king should be depicted in the originally proposed equestrian stance or if it should be a standing statue like the Sardar Patel Statue of Unity in Gujarat.
Documents obtained by The Indian Express under the Right to Information Act reveal that the “stance” of the statue was discussed at a meeting of the project’s technical committee on November 27, 2018.
“The stance of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue is not yet finalised. In this regard, the chairman (of the committee) directed the project management consultant to submit small replicas of three-four alternative (positions),” read the minutes of the meeting of the technical committee. The principal secretary of the PWD is the chairman of the technical committee.
The meeting was held in November 2018, over a month after the PWD instructed the project contractor to start work. Currently, work is stalled after the PWD last month asked the contractor to stop work days after the Supreme Court, while hearing a special leave petition, orally asked the state not to proceed with the construction activity on the statue.
Sources said that after the November meeting, four models of the statue in different stances were presented to senior PWD officials. One of these depicts a standing Shivaji statue, similar to the Shivaji statue at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai. “After the inauguration of Sardar Patel’s statue, many people appeared to appreciate it. That may have influenced the government to consider the option of a standing statue of Shivaji,” said a source. The three other models show the warrior king riding a horse, but with minor differences in the angle of the horse’s legs.
Principal Secretary (PWD) Manoj Saunik refused to comment on the fresh re-assessment of design.
An official said the height of the statue may also be increased if the state government opts for a standing statue, in order to outdo the 182-metre tall Sardar Patel Statue of Unity.
However, the PWD’s move to reconsider the basic stance and design of the statue at this stage has met with surprise. “Tenders for the project were floated with a concept design of an equestrian statue with two legs of the horse raised. Even the contract agreement for the project has been signed with contractor in June 2018 and the orders to commence the work has also been given to the contractor. Everyone was of the opinion that the stance of the equestrian statue was final,” said a government official.
In December 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had carried out ‘jal poojan’ for the Rs 3,700-crore project, the concept was of an equestrian statue. In addition, all permissions received from 12 agencies, including the Ministry of Environment, refer to an equestrian statue.
While the officials are tight lipped about what prompted them to re-assess the stance of the statue, one section of PW officials believe the change is being considered on account of the challenges involved in building the originally proposed equestrian statue.
The Shivaji memorial as proposed — 210 m in height, including a 121.2-m equestrian statue standing atop an 88.8-m pedestal — is a flagship project of the BJP-led government in the state.