Development of Gandhi Hill, the first Gandhi memorial in India constructed on a hillock, has been on cards for some time.
The local officials of the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) are enthusiastically working on a master plan to groom the historic place that served as the venue for the 1921 AICC meeting where Mahatma Gandhi called for prohibition.
“The hill spot has a very high potential for development of tourism. Located in the heart of the city, it has a toy train, a planetarium, a conference hall with a seating capacity for 1,000 people, a library with a rare collection of books on Gandhiji and three historic halls. Most of these structures are in a dilapidated state as they were left in a prolonged state of neglect,” says Juvvadi Raghupathi Rao, Divisional Manager of the APTDC, Vijayawada division.Mr. Rao says estimates to the tune of Rs.5 crore have been prepared and forwarded for approval of the District Collector and once it is done, the file will move to the APTDC MD’s chamber. But interestingly, Collector Budhaprakash M. Jyothi, when contacted, denied knowledge of any such proposal. “There is no such proposal. Even if a proposal to this effect is made, it will not be a welcome step because the Gandhi Hill Society, which is presently responsible for the upkeep of the place, is doing a wonderful job,” Mr. Budhaprakash told The Hindu on Friday.
Mr. Budhaprakash’s statement assumes significance in the wake of his recent visit to the hill top where he reportedly expressed displeasure over the neglect of the monument and other structures there.
Meanwhile, the APTDC talks of a series of activities it plans to take up on the hill to attract tourists. “The hill is located at a height of 500 feet and provides a panoramic view of the city. There is wide scope to develop the light and sound show at the planetarium, besides taking up landscaping, introducing adventure sports and even providing accommodation at the foot of the hill,” he says. A huge Gandhi structure of 15.8 meter height was unveiled in 1968 by Dr. Zakir Hussain on this hill to propagate the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi. It also has seven stupas placed at a height of nearly 150 meters.
Informing about a meeting of the Revenue, Tourism, Railways, Forest, Engineering and other allied department officials a couple of days ago on the issue, Mr. Rao says the Corporation is eager to launch works at the earliest.
But, the gross mismatch between the APTDC enthusiasm and blatant denial on the part of the district administration makes the picture a tad hazy.