MUMBAI: The ongoing work on a memorial to chief Constitution drafter B R Ambedkar here can be completed within two years if taken up as a challenge, NCP president Sharad Pawar said on Tuesday.
Speaking after reviewing the progress of the project in Dadar, whose 'bhumi pujan' was performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, he said once completed, the monument can become a tourist hotspot.
Pawar said he was told 25 per cent of the work on the memorial, coming up in the compound of now-defunct Indu Mills, has been completed.
The former Union minister defended the construction of the memorial amid suggestions the fund required for the project be used for some other purposes, saying it will turn out to be an important attraction from tourism point of view.
The Maharashtra government last week approved a proposal to raise the height of the proposed statue of the Dalit icon at the site by 100 feet and cleared the revised expenditure of Rs 1089.95 crore for the project.
"The memorial work will complete in two years if taken up as a challenge," Pawar told reporters.
The former Union agriculture minister said the memorial will be a centre of attraction in India and outside, particularly in countries where the Buddhist community has large presence, like Sri Lanka, Thailand and China.
Pawar said he suggested the authorities implementing the project to ensure proper crowd management on April 14 and December 6 (birth and death anniversaries, respectively, of Ambedkar) as the number of the followers of the social reformer who visit Dadar on these two days was increasing.
He declined to comment on whether there was a delay on part of the previous Devendra Fadnavis government in executing the project.
On some people suggesting that the fund meant for the memorial be spent for some other purposes, Pawar said everyone has a right to express an opinion.
"And there is a big section in the society which thinks it must guide (others) on every issue.
Since such a section is big, one should accept what is right and ignore (what is not)," the NCP leader added.
To a question, Pawar said the MVA government, in which his party is a key ally, is strong enough to set up another university in the state.
Dalit leader and grandson of B R Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar, last Saturday suggested that the Bombay High Court ask the government to utilise funds sanctioned for the proposed statue for improvement of the functioning of cash- strapped Wadia hospitals for women and children instead.
Asked about it, Pawar said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has already held a meeting regarding the issues faced by Wadia hospitals, which receive funds from the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Noting the Statue of Liberty in the US is visited by tourists from across the world, Pawar said people would similarly like to see the memorials of Chhatrapati Shivaji (in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai coast) and Ambedkar.