Opinion : This is why Construction of Shivaji Memorial is waste of Taxpayer’s money

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Concept plan of the Shivaji Memorial in Arabian Sea. courtesy: Maharashtra government.

Mumbai : Despite the political hullabaloo, there are many fascinating things about the statue, so here’s all you want to know about the memorial. Prime Minister Narandra Modi visited Mumbai for the ground-breaking ceremony of the much controversial Shivaji Memorial, also called the Shivaji Smarak. The memorial of the Maratha warrior and king, when built off the Arabian Sea, will stand at 192 metres, making it the tallest memorial built in the world.

Concept plan of the Shivaji Memorial in Arabian Sea. courtesy: Maharashtra government.

The whooping Rs 3,600 crore project’s bhoomipoojan was layed down by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During the foundation event, he said that his party will not shy away from taking tough decisions. When Modi was in Mumbai to do Bhoomipoojan there were 150 fisherman who planned to do a peaceful protest but was detained to crush the protest ahead of PM Modi’s Mumbai visit .

While many right wings supporters are supporting the move of construction of Shivaji Maharaj Memorial without knowing its effect, we sholud not ignore the concern of fishermen.

The fishing community of Mumbai has been opposing the 192-metre high Shivaji memorial ever since it was announced in 2010, because the location of the memorial is a breeding ground for at least 32 species of the city’s most commonly eaten fish. Building the memorial (which will include a statue, museum, amphitheatre and jetties) is likely to involve reclamation of around 60 acres of the sea. This, according to Koli groups, will effectively rob thousands of fishing families of their livelihoods.

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The project, however, has attracted a lot more controversy than excitement from various shades. After The Koli (fishing) community is angry over losing livelihood, Shiv Sena and BJP are fighting for credit over the project, environmentalists are concerned about the degradation and people are concerned that tax payer’s money is being wrongly wasted.

Even mainstream media published against this government step and suggested what else could have been done with 3600 Cr money which is going to be invested in constructing Shivaji Memorial. In a report published by Times of India Shivaji memorial money could have helped Maharashtra complete key projects , which explains what more government could have achieved with this money to help citizens.

YouTuber and blogger (Dhruv Rathee) an social activist made a video explaining why this construction is waste of money, In his video he explains. The Shivaji Memorial Statue going to be built on the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Mumbai is going to cost 3600 Cr of taxpayer’s money. This huge amount of money will take 144 years to recover the spent amount if this statue gets as popular as India’s most touristic spot, the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal earns 20-25 Cr in revenue each year through sales of tickets and other earning like booking for movie shoot or any events. The 144 year calculation also assumes that there would not be any money spent on maintenance of the statue. Its not possible to maintain a huge project in middle of sea without maintenance, the maintenance will also come in huge amount. So the actual figure may be a lot higher. The 3600 Cr spent will most probably not be recovered ever.

The budget proposed for the Shivaji memorial is almost equal to the BMC’s annual health budget –Rs 3,694 crore,  which is used to run four medical colleges, five speciality hospitals and 16 peripheral hospitals, besides a strong network of over 170 municipal dispensaries and primary health centres in each ward of Mumbai city.

Why it is Waste of tax money :

1. Big cost: Rs 3,600 crore which is almost equal to total BMC’s annual health budget, being spent on building a show piece on the middle of the sea is nothing but a waste of tax payer’s hard earned money. This coming at the time when the whole of India is cringing under the burden of demonetization, poverty, when farmers are committing suicide due to loan , water deficit in Maharashtra and more is definitely a big waste that could have been used in better and productive ways.

2. Fishermen’s concern : The livelihood of over 1.5 lakh fishermen will be put at stake during the construction of the memorial. The Koli (Fishing) community has been severely protesting but there seems to be no hearing but they were not allowed to protest during Modi visit to Mumbai,  There could surely have been a better way of honoring Shivaji that did not include making the poor suffer.

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3. Debt burden: The economic survey table shows that Maharashtra’s stands with a debt burden of 3.3 lakh crores. Maharashtra alone accounts for 12.2 per cent of total debt burden of all the states that are on the top of the debt list. At this time the state should not have called for this big wastage of tax payer’s money.

4. Environment concern: Building a structure as big as this would adversely affect marine life. Hampering ecology and degrading the environment is a big concern that comes with raising a structure on the middle of the sea. This issue is also being ignored as environmentalists have come out to protest that the construction of the structure would adversely affect the ecology.

5. All for politics: Congress delayed the project and BJP finds it as an opportunity to show people that he has the upper hand when it comes to the welfare of the community. Shiv Shena wants a part of the credit too but BJP is bent on not sharing it. The project was delayed one and a half years to hatch it just in time for the BMC polls. So much of wastage just for political gain.
Government would have paid of 1000 cr due, which yet to pay as compensation to cotton and soyabean farmers for crop loss due to drought last year. Citizens from across state and india criticized the government for spending so much money on the project, especially at a time when the agriculture sector is struggling to recover from four years of drought. In addition, the government still needs to pay Rs 800 crore as crop insurance for losses during last year’s rabi season.

A BJP leader Vinod Tawde, cultural affairs minister said, “When it comes to Shivaji memorial cost, we are not looking at the budget. Money will not fall short for this project. All we want is to give a befitting tribute to the great leader.”

The cost of the memorial project, which was Rs 100 crore in 2004 has increased in  twelve year to whopping Rs 3600 Cr now.

This will be like a white elephant being gifted to a small village struggling with poverty.

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