Shivaji memorial: Govt asks L&T to start work minus technical panel nod

EVEN AS the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial project is yet to get the technical panel’s nod for its revised design, the Public Works Department (PWD) of the Maharashtra government has asked Larsen & Toubro (L&T), contractor for the project, to start work from October 19. With this, the project deadline has been extended by almost seven and a half months and its cost has shot up by Rs 643 crore before the commencement of work.

Sources said L&T was asked on October 12 to commence work from October 19. The move comes after the Mumbai Port Trust gave its NOC with certain conditions for reclamation work. The contractor is likely to start reclamation work immediately, said an official.

Documents obtained by The Indian Express under the Right to Information Act reveal that the PWD had issued a “letter of acceptance” to the contractor on March 1, 2018, stating that “the work shall be completed within 36 months from the date of issue of Letter of Acceptance”. However, the work order issued on September 14 by the PWD to the contractor clearly states that “the duration of the project shall be 36 months, including monsoon, from the date of commencement”. Sources in the PWD attributed the stretched deadline to the design changes made while effecting cost-optimisation measures and the delay in signing of the contract agreement.

On October 4, The Indian Express reported that the revised design of the project does not have approvals from the project’s technical committee, headed by principal secretary, PWD. In February, the Project Management Consultant made a series of changes to the design of the equestrian statue and pedestal, together envisioned as the world’s tallest statue, in order to bring down its overall cost. The revised design and the cost-optimisation report are yet to be okayed by the technical committee.

The documents also show that the chief engineer of PWD’s Mumbai region, on August 23, sent a proposal of Rs 3,533.46 crore, approximately Rs 643 crore higher than the contract agreement, to the secretary, PWD, for seeking administrative approval. On June 28, 2018, the PWD signed an agreement of Rs 2,581 crore plus GST (Rs 309 crore) with the contractor.

In December last year, the government decided to go in for cost-optimisation measures to reduce the total project cost from Rs 3,826 crore, the sum originally quoted by L&T. The various cost-optimisation measures brought down the total cost to Rs 2,500 crore plus GST, taking the total project cost to Rs 2,800 crore. In June, with the government deciding to increase the height of the statue by 2 metres and put in place security measures, an additional Rs 81 crore was added, taking the total project cost to Rs 2,581 crore with GST (Rs 309 crore).

In the letter to PWD secretary, the chief engineer of PWD’s Mumbai region has stated that a sum of Rs 236 crore is required for security measures as suggested by the Mumbai Police commissioner. Besides, Rs 45 crore is required for permanent water and electric supply, Rs 126 crore for contingencies, Rs 63 crore for computerisation with other expenses. “To make the project functional after the completion of work, the estimate has been prepared taking into consideration all the required things,” stated the letter. Sources said the administrative approval is being reviewed and has not yet been given.

The project entails an equestrian statue of warrior king Shivaji Maharaj on a submerged rocky outcrop off Mumbai’s Backbay area. The location is about 2.4 km from Nariman Point, on a reclaimed island. The statue is to be cast in bronze and will stand atop a pedestal designed as a multistorey structure. The project, a flagship programme of the BJP-led government in the state, saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi lay the foundation stone for the memorial and a ‘jal poojan’ in December 2016.

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