Ahead of the crucial vote on FDI in retail in Parliament, the government on Wednesday cleared the decks for the transfer of a piece of prime sea-facing land in central Mumbai for a “befitting” memorial to Dr B R Ambedkar.
The “historic decision” came a day ahead of Ambedkar’s death anniversary for which lakhs of people converge at Shivaji Park every year. The 12.5 acre India United Mill — popularly known as Indu Mill — land had been sought for the memorial because it is adjacent to Chaitya Bhoomi, the spot were Dr B R Ambedkar’s ashes are interred.
“The Government of India has taken a view to make available this land for use to the government of Maharashtra for the construction of a befitting memorial,” Textiles Minister Anand Sharma informed both the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.
In Mumbai, the Maharashtra government announced that a new authority will be created to plan and construct the memorial, which will be modelled on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi at Rajghat, New Delhi.
“A separate authority will be set up for the purpose and an international architect will be appointed as a consultant to prepare the blueprint for the memorial,” Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said. The expenses of the authority, which will have three government officials from the state and four from the Centre, will be borne by the state.
“The government has initiated the process to give effect to this decision and I will be shortly be moving the necessary legislative proposal for parliamentary approval,” Sharma told the House. “I seek the support and endorsement of the House.”
Hailing Ambedkar as one of India’s tallest leaders, Sharma said that the decision was taken respecting public sentiments and in response to the request of the Maharashtra government, and taking note of the unanimous resolution passed by both Houses of the state legislature.
Chief Minister Chavan had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday to press for transfer of the land.
BSP chief Mayawati, who kept the government on tenterhooks on the FDI vote before ultimately walking out of the Lok Sabha, however, remained unimpressed by Sharma’s announcement.
“For such a grand memorial for Ambedkar, at least 30-40 acres of land would be required. In 12-13 acres, no grand memorial can be built,” she told reporters outside Parliament House.