It could pay for a micro-irrigation programme to bring water to thousands of farmers over two years; pay for new rural roads seven times over; electricity projects five times over; restore 300 medieval forts in Maharashtra.
But the Maharashtra government, on October 26, started work on the world’s tallest statue – of medieval Maratha monarch Shivaji – off Mumbai’s coast and intends to spend Rs 3,600 crore, at current estimates. Since it was first conceived 12 years ago, the budget for Shivaji’s statue has risen 35 times.
The state government bypassed legal procedure by getting an exemption on February 5, 2015, from conducting public hearings on the statue’s construction – local fishermen say it will affect their fishing grounds, and the island – from the Union Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change.
The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the electricity utility BEST recently expressed their inability to lay underwater cables to the statue site – 3.5 km out to sea – citing “lack of expertise”.
Tallest in the world
The idea for the Shivaji statue first emerged in 1980. In 2004, the budget was around Rs 100 crore, which jumped to Rs 700 crore in 2009, Rs 1,400 crore in 2013 and Rs 3,600 crore in 2016.
The Rs 3,600 crore to be spent on the statue will be equivalent to:
The statue will be the world’s tallest at 190 metres, 8 metres taller than Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s “Statue of Unity”, now under construction in Gujarat and slated for completion in 2018.
Currently, the Veera Abhaya Anjaneya Hanuman Swami in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, is the tallest statue (41 meters) in India, IndiaSpend reported in November 2015.
This article first appeared on IndiaSpend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.