As elections approach, the cash-strapped Maharashtra government revived an old election promise and allocated Rs. 100 crore for a statue of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji to be erected in the Arabian Sea. The allocation was cleared by the state cabinet on Wednesday.
The statue, conceived as a memorial along the lines of the Statue of Liberty, was initially promised by the Congress-NCP government in its 2004 election manifesto. By 2009, the cost for the venture was estimated to be Rs. 350 crore. The state has identified a 16 hectare area in the sea for the project, off Marine Drive.
“This will be the tallest statue of Shivaji. The former environment minister had given an in-principle approval to the project. We have prepared a project report and will be applying to the environment ministry for an exemption since the statue falls within the Coastal Regulation Zone,” Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said.
Environmentalists have taken strong exception to the state’s plans. “Mumbai has been a leading violator of Coastal Regulation norms in the country. So many exceptions have been made for builders that the very essence of this law has been destroyed. If Mumbai is allowed to build a statue in the sea, what is to stop other states from demanding the same?” asked D. Stalin from Vanashakti.
The Opposition has criticised the government’s move as an election gimmick. “We have been waiting for this statue for the last ten years. The government thinks about it only when elections are approaching,” said Shiv Sena MLA Subhash Desai.