Even as urban planners dub the government’s decision to allot 12.5acres of mill land in Dadar for a memorial as “squandering of prime public land”, others have suggested that land can be put to better use – for the welfare of Dalits.
The state government recently allotted land worth Rs25,000 crore at Indu Mill in Dadar (west) to set up a memorial for Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, in keeping with demands by the Dalit community.
Some urban planners told DNA that the land should be developed along the lines of Raj Ghat — Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial in Delhi. While development control rules do not permit construction rules on the mill land – it falls within 500 metres from the coast – landscaping of the plot is permissible. This means, the land can be beautified with carpets of greenery.
A senior urban planner said landscaping of the plot would not flout environment rules. “It will give a huge tract of open space for the public’s benefit,” the planner said on condition of anonymity, as the issue is politically sensitive. “Also,every year, Ambedkar supporters come to the city to pay respects to the great man on his death anniversary, and are forced to live on the streets. At this time, the plot could double up as an open dormitory for them.”
This planner also said the government should shelve its tall plans to set up a convention centre on the plot. A convention centre comprises an auditorium with lodging facility thrown in, like Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan at Nariman Point.
Executive chairman of the city-based Urban Design Research Institute, Pankaj Joshi, said the common man rarely gets access to memorial-cum-convention centres. “It’s the political class which holds sway,” said Joshi.
Suggesting that the premises be developed like Raj Ghat, Joshi said it could host charitable activity for social uplift. “Like education and health camps for Dalits will be a perfect tribute to Dr Ambedkar,” Joshi told DNA.
Senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Vijay Kamble, who was instrumental in the handing-over of the mill land, said the land could be used to construct houses for mill workers. “The memorial could come up on the city’s outskirts where land will be available cheaper,” said Kamble. “But all of us, including our chief minister, are victims of vote bank politics.”