India Gate is the right place to build a national war memorial, Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Sunday said, against the backdrop of opposition by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to the proposal.
“As far as we are concerned, this (India Gate) is the place to have a war memorial. We are very clear,” he told reporters after laying wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Indian victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan.
The Defence Minister was asked to react to the separate letters written by the Delhi Chief Minister opposing the construction of war memorial at the India Gate.
He said after long years of efforts, a Group of Ministers (GoM) set up by Prime Minister and the three Services chiefs had agreed to set up the war memorial here.
“Before taking the proposal to the Cabinet (for approval), the Urban Development Ministry has written to all the stakeholders to seek their comments and views. But I am sure that we will be able to clinch the issue,” Mr. Antony said when asked if Ms. Dikshit’s letter may delay the process of building the war memorial at the India Gate complex.
In separate letters to Mr. Antony, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath, she has said that an alternative site should be found for the memorial.
Ms. Dikshit said India Gate is the only popular hangout place for people of the city and coming up of the memorial there would restrict movement of people in the area due to security reasons, top sources said.
She has said that setting up of the memorial would also affect the ambience of the area.
The armed forces have been demanding a war memorial in the national capital to honour their men who made supreme sacrifice in various wars, conflicts and militancy-related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.
The Defence Ministry has been pushing for construction of the memorial near India Gate which is a memorial for soldiers killed in action during the First World War.
In view of the demand of the armed forces, the government had set up the GoM in 2009 which was headed by Pranab Mukherjee before he became the President.
In reply to a query on the proposals cleared by the Cabinet to enhance pensions of ex-servicemen, Mr. Antony said the orders in this regard would be issued by next month which would enhance their pension by Rs 2,300 crore.”
“Five orders are to be issued of which three have been cleared by the Finance Ministry. I think we would be able to issue all the orders by New Year. Government has twice enhanced the pension at the cost of Rs 4,500 crore in the recent past,” he noted.