The BJP-led Maharashtra government has fast-tracked the Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial project to secure clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change and from other agencies. Slated to be the world’s tallest statue once it is built, the project has run into controversy with Opposition parties led by the Congress and NCP alleging that the government has insulted the followers of the warrior king by reducing the height of the statue.
What is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial project?
The Maharashtra government is set to build an equestrian statue of warrior king Shivaji on a submerged rocky outcrop off Mumbai’s Backbay area. The location is about 2.4 km from Nariman Point, on a reclaimed island. The statue is to be cast in bronze and will stand atop a pedestal designed as a multi-storey structure.
The entire statue including the pedestal will measure 210 meters in height — a 121.2-metre equestrian statue and a 88.8 — metre pedestal. The pedestal will house visitor management spaces, a museum, art gallery, food court, viewing deck, amphitheater, helipad complex, exhibition gallery, landscaping, lavatories, stalls and offices. Marine works for the project include breakwaters, island reclamation works for about 6.8 hectares of land, a sea wall designed to appear as a historic fort wall and a passenger jetty.
Why was the height of the statue repeatedly increased?
The project was first mooted by the Congress-NCP combine, in its poll manifestoes of 2004 and 2009. The earlier design proposed a modest height of 98 metres, then revised it to 190 metres and then to 210 metres, with the present government keen to render it the world’s tallest statue. The height of the Spring Temple Buddha in China is 208 metres.
Upon learning of the construction of a base for the Spring Temple Buddha statue, the Maharashtra government has now proposed to increase the height of the Shivaji statue by two metres, taking the total height to 212 metres.
However, to reduce the earlier projected cost of Rs 3,826 crore, the state government decided to optimise costs and brought it down to Rs 2800
crore including GST. On March 1, the state government issued a Letter of Acceptance to Larsen and Toubro (L&T) for the project work.
What is the controversy now?
The current controversy is on the reduction of the height of the equestrian warrior king by 7.5 metres and an increase in height of the sword by 7.5 metres than originally proposed. The state government had originally proposed a statue standing 121.2 metres tall, including the sculpture of the king on his horse together measuring 83.2 meters, and a 38-metre sword. As part of the cost reduction measures, the height of the sculpture of the warrior king on his steed has been reduced to 75.7 metres while the length of the sword was raised to 45.5 metres, thus maintaining the statue height of 121.2 metres. The original base length of the sculpture was also proportionally reduced to maintain the aesthetic view of the statue. This has resulted in a lower anticipated use of bronze, tertiary steel elements and armature. Overall, these changes and a few others have led to a cost reduction of Rs 338.94 crore.
Why are the opposition parties upset ?
The Congress and NCP have accused the BJP of reducing the height of the statue by 7.5 meters to cut expenses, calling this an insult to Chhatrapati Shivaji and Maharashtra. Opposition parties created an uproar on the issue in the just-concluded monsoon session of state legislature. They alleged that the BJP was playing with emotive issues of people.
Referring to proposals submitted to the MoEF for approvals, the opposition parties have alleged that the government has reduced the height of the statue from 160 metres to 126 metres while raising the pedestal height from 32 metres to 84 metres.
What is the government stance regarding this?
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that the first design sent to the MoEF was a ‘schematic’ one to get clearances. The project management consultants later worked out a design approved by the government. The pedestal height had to be raised to provide a solid formation for high wind pressure in the middle of the sea, he said, adding that the government was committed to building the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial in the Arabian sea which will be the world’s tallest statue.
Fadnavis promised that he would convene a separate meeting with opposition leaders and would share the plans and designs with them. However, Fadnavis did not say anything on the issue of decrease in height of the statue by 7.5 metres and increase in the sword’s length.
Why is this such an important project for Maharashtra?
The Congress-NCP mooted the proposal in an attempt to consolidate votes of the Maratha community, which is a politically dominant community in the state. In the run-up to the 2014 Assembly polls, the BJP ran its election campaign with a slogan Chhatrapati Shivaji Cha Ashirvad, Chalo Chale Modi Ke Saath (Let us seek blessings of Chhatrapati Shivaji and walk along with Modi). The BJP-led government also named its farm loan waiver scheme after Chhatrapati Shivaji. In addition, following the rape and murder of a girl in Kopardi, in Ahmednagar district, Marathas launched a series of silent gatherings demanding death penalty for the accused in the case.
One of their demands was also the construction of the Shivaji Memorial off Mumbai.