Mumbai: 8 years after it was first proposed by the Cong-NCP government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Saturday perform the Jal Poojan for a 192 mt tall statue of Maratha warrior king Shivaji. This memorial, on a rocky outcrop in the Arabian sea, will be built at a cost of a whopping Rs 3600 crores.
That figure when seen in the context of Maharashtra’s finances begs the questions, isn’t this wasteful expenditure? The Economic survey tabled earlier this year showed how Maharashtra’s debt burden stands at 3.3 lakh crores. According to data released by the Reserve Bank of India, Maharashtra accounts for 12.2 per cent of total debt of all states, topping the list.
Outraged that the tax payers money isn’t being put to better use, Karishma Upadhyay a freelance journalist and mumbaikar started a petition on change.org earlier this week hoping to build pressure to get the project shelved. At last count the petition had 18,000 signatures.
“There is surely a better way to honour Shivaji. I thought this petition was a constructive way to get people engaged and act ”, Karishma Upadhyay told News18. “We all rant on social media about how our tax rupees cannot be spent like this but do nothing about it. I hope this petition and our voices reach the CM and the PM”.
Karishma says hostility from trolls apart, one argument in favour of the memorial she has encountered is that the United States too has the statue of liberty “ To which she says “I tell them the statue of liberty was gifted to the Americans by the French, no tax dollars were spent on it”!!
The project has also triggered protests by Mumbai’s Koli or fishing community. The Akhil Maharashtra Machimar Kriti Samiti (AMMKS) said it will fly black flags on over 5000 boats as a symbol of protest when prime minister Modi performs the Jal pujan. Damoder Tandel the president of AMMKS claims the livelihood of over 1.5 lakh fishermen will be severely impacted by the construction activity of the memorial.
On Wednesday revenue minister Chandrakant Patil looked to assure the fishing community , stating that the govt will be setting up a committee to study losses incurred by the community and state will look at ways to compensate them.
Tandel though remains unconvinced telling News 18 that the government was attempting to dissuade them from protesting. The police he says have already issued notices to fisherfolk telling them not to venture out to sea as part of the proposed protest.