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Since time immemorial, statues have played a significant role in commemorating the achievers, influencers, great thinkers, great leaders, and people who have left a deep impact in the world. In recent times, India has witnessed the inception and presentation of magnanimous statues dedicated to heroes of the nation. But, its sheer magnificence has not been met with resounding happiness and applaud.

While the recent Statue of Unity, dedicated to the Indian statesman and founding father, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, is titled the tallest statue, it has also been criticised for the callous use of public money. Another such magnanimous statue, Shivaji Memorial statue, dedicated to the 17th century Maratha ruler with a height of 212 metres, making it the tallest statue in the world, which is undergoing its construction in the Arabian Sea, has been facing similar remarks with many stakeholders advising the government otherwise, mainly in the context of misutilization of taxpayers hard earned money, environmental issues, and most importantly the questionable safety of the proposed construction itself. 

Many Public Interest Litigations (PILs) have been filed against the proposed memorial by various stakeholders. The Akhil Maharashtra Machimar Kriti Samiti (AMMKS), a group representing the fishermen who fear it will damage and destroy the environment and fishing community, filed a PIL with the National Green Tribunal, Pune, accusing the Maharashtra government, Union Environment Ministry, Mumbai Port Trust and the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) of getting environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances for the project without consulting the citizens and taking into consideration the natural aquatic and marine eco-system and how it will affect the fishermen community. The ferry boats carrying visitors to the monument will cut through fishing areas which account for a large portion of the fishermen’s business. 

A city-based Chartered Accountant, Mohan Bhide, who on January 4th 2017 also filed a PIL, saying that the state’s decision to construct a 192-m-high statue, of the Maratha warrior king at the cost of Rs 3600 crores was illogical and uncalled for. 

 The lack of safety measures during and after the construction of the proposed monument has also been questioned by many. According to a report in Times of India, marine experts claim that the budget has been cut down at the cost of safety, such as compromisation on quality of materials to be used for building the foundation of the seawall. “For example, a wind tunnel test is essential to analyse wind forces on the statue’s critical appendages like the sword and arm, say in a cyclone of 198 km per hour. Even this has not been started in project documents”, writes the author who is a retired vice admiral of the navy and a member of the citizen group APLI Mumbai. 

Why is the government still moving forward with the project despite numerous oppositions?

First, the construction of this magnitude is said to provide a lot of employment opportunities through tourism and employment of labourers for construction. With tourism and business opportunities increasing manifold, the small businesses will definitely thrive, helping maintain the standard of living of the poor people, such as food, clothing, and housing of their families. This comes as an indirect aid from the government as it provides first-hand agency to the labourers who engage in economic activities and provide for their families as compared to direct aid given by the government, this sort of employment opportunity will eventually boost up the morale of the labourers who put the onus of providing for their family on themselves. Second, the proposed construction of the world’s tallest statue of the most revered king within the Maratha community is the easiest way for the BJP to woo voters. Maharashtra also recently witnessed massive Maratha rallies demanding for reservations, which were anti-government in nature. The statue of their mighty ruler will surely give them a sense of pride, garnering more votes. 

Maharashtra has already revered their beloved king in multiple ways - statues, the airport and a railway station in Mumbai are already in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s name. Renovating and reviving old Maratha forts which has a rich history of its own, but neglected for far too long could have been a better and judicious use of the money instead of constructing a statue in the Arabian sea which will disrupt the everyday business of the fishermen community, who are also an integral part and essence of Maharashtra.

At present, construction of statues has become a form of power show between states, with state governments asserting that their home state should have the tallest statue in the world. But in the race for constructing the tallest statue in the world, India has been power-blinded by its height, which is definitely not the ideology Shivaji Maharaj or Sardar Patel would have agreed to. India’s primary focus should be quality education for all, better healthcare facilities, construction of better roads, etc. which is somehow taking a secondary position with increasing rave over building the world’s tallest statue.

 

References

Johari, A. (October 27, 2018). The dangers of Megalomania: A boat accident in Mumbai has warnings about a Shivaji Statue in the sea. Scroll.in. Retrieved from https://scroll.in/article/899741/the-dangers-of-megalomania-a-boat-accident-in-mumbai-has-warnings-about-a-shivaji-statue-in-the-sea

Chatterjee, B. (September 2, 2016). Fishermen file plea opposing Shivaji statue off Mumbai coast. Hindustan Times. Retrieved from https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/mumbai-s-fishermen-file-pil-opposing-shivaji-statue-in-the-sea/story-f36E1pagvxFysM6cZpc3qL.html

Chaudhari, K. (January 13, 2017). CA files PIL seeking scrapping of Shivaji Memorial project. Hindustan Times. Retrieved from https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/ca-files-pil-seeking-scrapping-of-shivaji-memorial-project/story-drKy6MNUt8mN4yWDNJdVvN.html

Waghmode, V. (October 24, 2018). Shivaji Statue: Chief of Monitoring panel seeks inquiry, says will move breach of privilege motion. Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/shivaji-statue-chief-of-monitoring-panel-seeks-inquiry-says-will-move-breach-of-privilege-motion-5415433/

Dikshit, A. (April 3, 2017). 337 Yrs After His Death, Shivaji Dominates Maharashtra’s Politics.                           The Quint. Retrieved from https://www.thequint.com/news/politics/why-chhatrapati-shivaji-shapes-the-politics-of-mumbai-and-maharashtra-today-memorial-statue-bjp-narendra-modi

Image Credit: Sky News

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Written By Stuti Pradhan

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