'The Statue of Unity is wasteful expenditure, but engineering-wise they have chosen the right place and correct spot. It is a simple statue and well executed.'
'Here, the government has chosen a wrong spot. They have chosen a wrong design.'
'The Shivaji Maharaj statue is holding a sword and the length of that sword is 48 metres, which is equivalent to a 16-storey building!'
A young man died on Wednesday, October 24, when a boat with many passengers, on the way to the proposed Shivaji memorial statue in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai, hit a rock and sank.
The tragedy highlights what retired Vice Admiral I C Rao, president, Apli Mumbai, an NGO and citizens forum, has stated ever since the ambitious project to erect the world's tallest statue on reclaimed land 1.5 km from the shore, was announced.
Admiral Rao has submitted a memorandum listing 25 reasons why the 696-feet tall statue -- 99 feet taller than the Statue of Unity of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat which Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi will dedicate to the nation on October 31, 2018 -- should not be built at the site but elsewhere.
"They chose the wrong spot because they want every visitor to Mumbai to see the Shivaji statue from Marine Drive," Admiral Rao tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
It is a proud moment for every Mumbaikar that work on the Shivaji Maharaj memorial has begun, but you say the project is not feasible. Why?
The location chosen for the Chhattrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue is not approachable by the boats which are in Mumbai harbour. These boats are too weak plus they are prohibited from crossing a line called Colaba Point.
All the passengers boats you see that you see at the Gateway of India are not allowed to cross that line, and that is the rule of the Bombay Port Trust, director general of shipping and the Government of India.
But the rules can be changed.
It cannot be changed because of safety.
Once you cross Colaba Point you are in the open sea. And when you are in the open sea you must have boats which are strong enough to face currents and winds.
You must have safety equipment, electronics, licences and communications system for passenger safety. Once you get that, then you must follow the Merchants Shipping Act.
This Act lays down what are the rules for a sea-going ship. Now these boats, which are at the Gateway of India and which go to Elephanta, they are not strong enough.
And when you do all those things, the cost goes up. A new ferry which goes to Mandwa costs around Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million) and for merchant shipping which goes beyond Colaba Point it will cost Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 million). These ships must be registered with the Indian Register of Shipping. That will also cost money.
At present the ships which you see at the Gateway of India, they are rickety and like ghoda ghadi (horse carts).
When you raised these issues, what did the Maharashtra government say?
The government is completely impervious to public opinion.
I wrote to them in April 2017 and gave 25 reasons why this statute must not be constructed, and still have not got any reply.
I was told that I must speak to L&T as they (the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra) have already given the contract to them. They have given the design, engineering, procurement and construction contract.
What about the Mumbai monsoons? Will that matter, too?
Three months in a year no boat can approach that site. Only trained naval persons can approach that site, not any passenger. A trained fisherman too can go.
And nowhere in the contract (with L&T) does the government say that for three months nobody can go to the memorial.
This government has corrupted all the institutions. When the Maharashtra government asked for an NOC (no objection certificate) from 12 departments, all of them gave the NOC but they told the government to follow certain conditions. But the conditions have not been met.
For example, BSNL has got underground cables near that area and they need to get an NOC from BSNL, and till date they have not got it.
Have you met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to discuss these issues?
I have given him several letters. I go to his office and take a copy of his office signature. I am sure the letter has reached him.
On Wednesday one person was killed near the site...
This was bound to happen. I had said so. I said this place is dangerous to approach in the monsoon and the sad part is that this tragedy happened not even in the monsoon.
The NIO (National Institute of Oceanography) is not competent to draw the track (to reach the memorial), but they have still drawn the track.
That is a hazardous track that even an idiotic seaman will not go on. Boats have sunk on the track and are still lying there.
Are you saying it is not practical to build the Shivaji memorial at this location?
It is not viable.
You can walk from Mumbai to Delhi. It is possible, but not viable as it will take you a year to do that.
Similarly, you can go from Mumbai to Delhi by bicycle too, but again it is not viable.
No engineer will say it is not possible, but this project is not viable.
When Napoleon invaded Russia and reached St Petersburg his commanders lost the battle and retreated.
When the garrison commander met Napoleon and was asked why he lost the battle, he said there are 70 reasons.
Napoleon said go ahead, specify the reasons, and the garrison commander gave the first reason as there was no ammunition. Napoleon immediately asked him to stop.
One reason was enough for him to know why the St Petersburg battle was lost and he did not hear the other 69 reasons.
In the same way, here, for three months in the monsoon you will not be able to visit the Shivaji memorial, so that reason itself is good enough that this memorial must not be built at that spot.
But you have the Statue of Liberty in New York amidst water, so why not the Shivaji Maharaj memorial?
This is double the size of the Statue of Liberty. The cost is huge. We need to have good engineers too, but you have politicians who are only talking of Shivaji pride.
In the last three years there have been four chief engineers for this project. Each engineer makes a report, signs the report and is then transferred. The attitude is like 'dekha jayega (we will see).'
Will we ever see the Shivaji statue come up?
It is not a viable proposition for this government at this stage when Maharashtra is facing a drought. The government also owns Rs 3 lakh crore in debt and this is like wasteful expenditure.
It is a matter of pride to have a Shivaji statue, isn't it?
Why does the government not improve the forts of Shivaji?
Raigad, Pratapgarh, Lohagarh and so many forts need improvement. Let people climb up to those forts and see what Shivaji Maharaj did.
The Maharashtra government is doing this project just to outdo the Statue of Unity of Sardar Patel.
The Statue of Unity is wasteful expenditure, but engineering-wise they have chosen the right place and correct spot. It is a simple statue and well executed.
Here, the government has chosen a wrong spot. They have chosen a wrong design.
The Shivaji Maharaj statue is holding a sword and the length of that sword is 48 metres, which is equivalent to a 16-storey building!
Who gave this design idea?
The government has gone berserk. They are behaving like Thakurs in the village and called the best engineers of L&T and told them they want this statue according to their whims and fancies. Engineer ko bulao, jo mangta hai bolo, hum dega (summon the engineers, what they want, we will give).
Moreover, they chose the wrong spot because they want every visitor to Mumbai to see the Shivaji statue from Marine Drive.
Did you suggest to the government an alternative site where this statue can be located?
I suggested Cross Island. You can go there from the Gateway of India or the Dockyard railway station. It does not require any reclamation of land either.
This island has been there for centuries. The Shivaji memorial can be built on this island, like the Statue of Liberty, which will welcome all the ships coming to Mumbai.