Mumbai:, (The Hindu): A boat tragedy off the coast of the Arabian Sea could prompt the State government to consider moving the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to land or any other safer location in Raigad.
A proposal to give post-facto administrative clearances to the memorial is likely to be tabled in the next meeting of the State Cabinet, sources said. The proposal of the Public Works Department (PWD) is to seek approval for Rs 3,700 crore from an earlier estimated cost of Rs 3,533.46 crore, an increase of nearly Rs 150 crore.
Several cost-optimisation measures in the interim have meant the contract agreement signed earlier this year with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) was only of Rs 2,581 crore. “It will be impossible to even talk about this (location change) before the elections, but we will at least discuss the possibilities in the cabinet,” a senior official said.
One person died and several others were injured when a boat carrying government officials capsized en route to the site of the proposed Shivaji memorial, where work was to begin last week. Following the incident, the clamour against the proposed site in the sea has grown louder.
Experts including pro-Maratha groups have urged the government to consider relocating the memorial to a safer venue. The Maratha Seva Sangh-Sambhaji Brigade has already said the statue be set up in Raigad to avoid future tragedies.
Sources in the government said the latest cabinet note provides in greater depth the history of the project proposal, which was first mooted on June 14, 1996, by the then chief minister Manohar Joshi. The initial proposal to set up the grand statue of the Maratha ruler was on a 19-acre plot in the Filmcity at Goregaon. However, amendments were made following a debate in the Assembly on June 1, 2004, incidentally also featuring the current Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. From here on, the statue plan was moved into the sea following a government resolution of 2005, the sources said.
“This was from the very beginning a project proposed on the land and not in the sea. A site was finalised following the committee set up under the then Mumbai collector. But changes were made and the proposal moved to the sea in 2005,” a senior official said, adding the historic background has only been added now to give the government some manoeuvring space as far as the location is concerned.
Sources said a plan to extend the scope of the existing disaster management plan for the project will also come for deliberations before the cabinet. “In the backdrop of the tragedy, we want to ensure the disaster plan is as comprehensive and secure as possible,” an official said.
The work orders issued to L&T have been in line with the changes made to the height of the statue, increased by two metres to finally touch the 212-metre mark. The change was made earlier this year by a high-power committee headed by Mr. Fadnavis which had approved an increase of two metres in the height of the statue of King Shivaji making it two metres higher than the second tallest Spring Temple Buddha (210 metres) in China. The temple’s height was earlier 208 metres, but an addition of two metres by the Chinese authorities had prompted Maharashtra to make their own change.
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