THE Supreme Court has said that it will examine the legality of the Uttar Pradesh government using public money running into several hundred crores for erecting statues and building memorials.
The state government in order to pacify the wrath of the court agreed to put on hold the construction for Kanshi Ram Memorial, which is coming up on 42 acres at VIP Road in Lucknow at a cost of Rs 370 crore.
“As per the reports, you (UP government) are spending Rs 2,600 crore. We may ask the government as to how such a colossal expenditure can be incurred,” said a bench comprising Justice B N Agrawal and Justice Aftab Alam.
Brushing aside state government’s plea that the project was approved by the cabinet, the court, said, it will examine the legality of the such decision. “We have to examine it. It (decision) cannot be arbitrary because it involves tax payers’ money. You cannot spend it as you like it,” bench told senior counsel Satish Chandra Mishra appearing for the state government.
Mishra, a confidant of Mayawati, tried to defend the decision of the state government citing the memorials constructed for various national leaders including ex-prime ministers and four members of one family at an estimated cost of Rs 10,000 crore. This failed to impress the bench which said that there were no memorials for all exprime ministers.
“There is no memorial for P V Narasimha Rao and Deve Gowda. Anyway, we are not concerned with political mileage. The court can act upon legal issues. It can be subject to judicial review because constitutional propriety is involved. It involves constitutional issues,” the court observed. The bench said the government cannot “fritter away” public money on such memorials.
The court also expressed indignation at the government’s perceived attempt to mislead it on the construction row. UP government counsel said that all the estimated 30-odd buildings in Lucknow city adjoining the Ambedkar Park sthal were razed before February 27, 2009, when the apex court had stayed demolition of the existing structures.
The bench pointed out the UP government did make such a claim when it had passed the stay on demolition seeking an explanation from the government. “Our orders have become futile if it was already demolished before our orders. It is a very serious matter. Don’t take it lightly. There may be a contempt or not. We want an explanation as to why this aspect (demolition) has not been brought to our notice,” the court said.
The bench was not convinced when the counsel said construction of most of the memorial structures for Kanshi Ram, B R Ambedkar and other Dalit leaders had been completed and no purpose would be served in staying the construction.
The bench headed by Justice Agrawal was initially inclined to pass an order directing the state government to stop the construction activities at the site. It, however, did not pass such order putting on record the undertaking of the state government which said, no further construction work would be carried at the Kanshi Ram memorial site. The court then posted the hearing for September 29.
According to the information given by the Lucknow Development Authority, the nodal agency entrusted with the task of execution of the project, the government has spent Rs 3.49 crore on UP chief minister Mayawati’s eight statues installed in five memorials coming up in the state capital. The government has spent another Rs 3.37 crore on seven statues of Kanshi Ram to be installed in the memorials.
The information given in response to a query under RTI Act, the agency further said that 60 statues of elephants — the election symbol of the BSP — were being erected in these memorials at cost of Rs 52.20 crore. Each of these statues, together with their granite covered pedestals, costs Rs 87 lakh.
The largest statue of Ms Mayawati and Kanshi Ram were installed at Pratibimb in Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajaik Parivartan Stahl (Ambedkar Memorial), Gomti Nagar. These two bronze statues are 24-feet high and each costs Rs 1.55 crore. It has 3 other statues of Ms Mayawati — one 18-foot-high bronze statue, costing Rs 47.25 lakh and two 9-foot bronze statues of Rs 23 lakh. Two bronze statues of Kanshi Ram, costing Rs 58.25 lakh were also installed there.
Another 18-foot bronze statue of Ms Mayawati, costing Rs 47.25 lakh, was installed at the Kanshi Ram memorial, a 12-feet bronze statue of Rs 20.25 lakh at Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Prateek Sthal, one 7-feet white marble statue of Rs 9-lakh at Gomti embankment near Ambedkar Memorial and another 15-feet bronze statue of Rs 47.25 lakh at Kanshi Ram Sanskritik Sthal, located at Kanpur Road.
An equal number of statues of Kanshi Ram, of same size and same cost, are installed in these memorials adjacent to the statues of Ms Mayawati, according to LDA.
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