Petition opposing construction of Rs 3,600 crore Shivaji memorial crosses 10,000 signatures

Petition to stop government from splurging Rs 3,600 crore on Shivaji memorial crosses 10,000 signatures
A screengrab of the petition on Change.org

Three days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Mumbai to lay the foundation stone of the Rs 3,600 crore Shivaji memorial, a petition opposing the move has gained momentum and crossed over 10,000 signatures.

Expected to complete by 2019, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial will be constructed on a 15 hectare rock inside the Arabian Sea at a cost of Rs 3,600 crore. Once ready, the 210 metres high statue will be the tallest in the world, dwarfing even New York’s Statue of Liberty.

Ever since the proposal was made public in 2009, activists and citizen groups have opposed the project owing to the environmental impact and financial burden on the cash strapped state.

Earlier, a group of marine conservationists had also filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to stop the construction by citing the impact of disruption in marine life and on fishermen’s livelihood.

However, nothing stopped the government from proceeding with the plan, and getting more ambitious along the way.

Earlier this week, after Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis confirmed that PM Modi will lay the foundation stone, an online petition was started on Change.org in a bid to convince the government to alter the plan and spend the proposed budget on education, infrastructure, food etc instead.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for the Rs 3,600 crore Shivaji memorial project in the Arabian Sea on December 24, 2016. This is tax-payers’ money and I am sure we would all like this money to be spend on something better – education, infrastructure, food…anything but a statue that is of no use to anyone. This is not what Shivaji would have wanted and I am sure we can find other ways to honour him.

“Apart from a waste of money, this statue is going to be terrible for the environment; for the traffic situation in South Bombay and a security nightmare (sic)” it reads.

The petition, it seems, has struck a chord with thousands of Mumbaikars, who have lent their support by signing it and actively sharing it on social media.

As of writing this, the petition has gathered just over 10,500 signatures. Once it has enough signatures, it will be mailed to both CM Fadnavis and PM Modi.

Recently, Fadnavis had also tried to silence detractors by saying that no amount was ‘too big to spend’ to pay tribute to the Maratha warrior.

The statement, however, hasn’t gone down well with some, who are claiming that the memorial is nothing but an attempt to woo Marathi voters before the upcoming civic body elections.

“The timing of laying the foundation stone for the memorial, changing the names of railway stations etc makes it evident that all these tactics are nothing but feeble attempts at winning over the Marathi voters. But with each passing year, the voters are giving lesser importance to such attempts and giving more weightage to parties that have paved the way for development. Since both state and centre are pro-development, why don’t they walk in the footsteps of the people-oriented Shivaji Maharaj and take measures to improving the basic necessities within the state or city,” said a political observer.

Meanwhile, some media reports have also claimed that the state government is likely to spend around Rs 18 crore on the publicity of the event.

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