Maharashtra Assembly passes resolution

After a brief ruckus, the Maharashtra Assembly on Tuesday resolved that the National Textiles Corporation (NTC) should hand over 12.5 acres of land in Indu Mills, Dadar, free of cost, to the government to build a memorial for Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Jitendra Avhad and others raised the issue of a memorial once again and there was some slogan-shouting, leading to two adjournments.

Before passing the resolution, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said, in response to issues raised by members, that in 2002 the then Chief Minister (Vilasrao Deshmukh) headed a committee which decided on a four-phase development of the memorial.

However, parties had raised a demand now for the entire 12.5 acres of mill land to be used to build the memorial and a cultural and educational centre.Mr. Chavan said the government would bear the cost of constructing the memorial. He had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and also met him twice to discuss the matter. He also would lead a delegation to meet Dr. Singh shortly.

Since the land originally belonged to the State government and the NTC was managing the mill, it could be returned to the government, Mr. Chavan said. The plan for the memorial was not yet ready since the issue of land availability was not yet sorted out. Initially, the NTC had offered up to one-third of the land — about 4 acres — to the government for the memorial and was planning to develop the rest as commercial premises. The land was to be payment in lieu of the premium charged for the commercial use of the land. The government, however, was keen on taking the entire land, Mr. Chavan said.

Mr. Avhad and Nawab Malik of the NCP also proposed renaming the Dadar railway station as Chaityabhoomi and giving Dr. Ambedkar's residence the status of a national heritage site. Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar said the Chief Minister should lead an all-party delegation on this issue to meet the Prime Minister to discuss the issue.

Mr. Mungantiwar asked the government why cases of rioting had been registered against Republican Party of India (Athavale) activists over the agitation for land for the memorial. The RPI (Athavale) is now an ally of the Shiv Sena-BJP.