This is the editorial that appeared in Loksatta (published by the Indian Express Group) on Wednesday, June 4, on the Maharashtra government’s decision to install a massive statue of Shivaji off the coast of Mumbai. The house of Loksatta editor Kumar Ketkar was attacked on Thursday.
It appears that all the problems of Maharashtra have been solved. People are not only happy and contented but are looking forward to a magnificent future. There are no indebted farmers in the state now, no suicides, no deaths caused by malnutrition. All children go to school, there is no unemployment among the educated as there is tremendous growth of industry as well as the knowledge sector and everyone has been employed. There is no question of the unskilled or the uneducated being unemployed because there is no such person. All the rivers and small and big dams on them have irrigated most of the land, including the drought-prone rainshadow belts. Obviously, there is no food shortage and, in fact, Maharashtra is surplus in food. There is no load shedding and not only is Nariman Point-Colaba shining but the whole state is illuminated. Dr Abhay Bang had espoused the cause of Arogya-Swarajya. That cause has already been achieved and the average lifespan in the state is 100 years.
This great success could not have been achieved without the farsighted leadership, commitment, conviction and vision of the state government. The credit for this goes to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil. That is why the whole state is applauding and saluting their leadership. Indeed, that is why the people of the state are immensely delighted that the duo that rules the state has taken up the grand project of erecting a magnificent statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, right in the Arabian Sea, across Nariman Point, about one kilometre away. The government has decided that the statue will be taller and more grand than the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour.
The very idea of such a statue, mooted by the Congress-NCP four years ago, was welcomed by the whole Marathi people. Such a monument was the necessity of the hour, to announce to the world that Maharashtra is a state of warriors and patriots and the symbol of that spirit is Shivaji Maharaj. That is why Victoria Terminus was renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). Instantly after the renaming, trains began to run on time, crowds could be managed, corruption disappeared, the local train journey became comfortable, like in the European suburban railway, and there were no accidents. Could this have happened without the glory of the name of Shivaji Maharaj that adorns the station now? Then the state and the people took the initiative to rename the domestic as well as international airport of Mumbai. Both are now renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj airport terminal. Like a magic wand, the airports became efficient, employees began to behave courteously, flights were punctual, take-offs and landings perfect, no more hovering in the sky looking for landing spots. Who would have believed this if it had not actually been experienced by the people? Was it possible without the miracle called Shivaji Maharaj?
Naturally, the government felt that having solved all the problems of the people, what remains to be done is to tell the whole world of the greatness of Shivaji. The government has decided to have more than one acre of land inside the sea acquired and filled so as to build the monument, which will attract all global tourists. All facilities will be given to the tourists. There will be a museum near the statue, artifacts of the 17th century, Shivaji’s personal effects, swords and shields and attire. There will also be directives issued by the Maharaj to his administrators on how to govern and make the people happy. Along with the museum, there will be shopping malls, selling T-shirts with Shivaji’s painting. There will be Shivaji key chains, Shivaji gift items, including cutlery.
Of course, there will be no beer bars. So obviously, there will be no dance bars, which the Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil detests so much. There will be perhaps wine, which according to the leader of NCP, Sharad Pawar, is not alcohol. So wine will be sold and served along with Coke and Pepsi and other soft drinks. There will be swadeshi McDonald’s as well as vintage Marathi vada-pau, which has been renamed by Uddhav Thackeray as ‘Shiv Vada-Pau’. There will also be ‘pani puri’ sold by the MNS activists of Raj Thackeray. No ‘bhaiyyas’ will be allowed to do business, only locals will be engaged.
The monument will inspire not only the people of the state but all those who visit Mumbai. The globe-trotters will go back to their respective countries with the message of Shivaji Maharaj, and the glory of the state called Maharashtra, where every person is happy and contented. It is the most ideal place on earth and anybody looking for a role model should look at the creation of Vilasrao Deshmukh-R.R. Patil. Did anyone else think of and visualise such a fantastic idea?
The monument would be ready soon. In the year 2010, on May 1, the state will be celebrating its golden jubilee. Could there have been a greater tribute to the image, symbol and glory of Shivaji Maharaj than such a statue, standing in the middle of the sea, warning all the terrorists to keep off Mumbai, and to keep away from India because the people of Maharashtra protect and promote the idea of a Great India?
The piece originally appeared in Marathi. It has been translated into English by the writer.