The 36,000 million rupee (US$530 million) giant statue of the 17th century Maratha warrior king Shivaji to be built on a rocky outcrop in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai has ruffled political feathers ahead of civic elections due early next year.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday laid the foundation stone for the 192-meter high Shiv Smarak, claimed to be the tallest statue in the world, which is more than twice the size of New York’s Statue of Liberty.
Opposition parties view the BJP-led government’s move as a propaganda gimmick ahead of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections, but are wary of questioning it in public as Shivaji is an emotive issue for the people of Maharashtra.
The memorial to be built on a 15.96 hectare islet will have an art museum, amphitheater, library, marine aquarium, helipad, hospital, food courts, stalls, and a jetty for tourists.
Although the environment ministry has given has approved the memorial, experts say boats carrying hordes of tourists will cause marine pollution.
Complaints from the fishing community that the project will considerably reduce their catch have been taken up by Maharashtra State Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis following talks on Thursday night.
The cost of the project has also been called into question. G Janardhan, a former engineer living in Vasai, Thane district, said: “36,000 million rupees is too big an amount for a memorial. We all respect Shivaji and worship him. But this splurge is unwarranted. Part of the funds could have been used to help farmers in Vidarbha where crop failure and inability to repay loans drive some of them to suicide every year.”
Instead of wasting so much on a memorial, the state should have allotted more funds for educating the rural masses, said KK Nair, a former railway constable from the western suburb of Goregaon.
Earlier this year, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati came under fire and eventually lost an election for wasting taxpayers’ money on statues of herself, mentor Kanshi Ram, and the party’s symbol, an elephant.