Of statues and squabbling employees
Controversy over installing busts in Shastri Bhavan
A controversy is brewing between two sections of Central government employees working in offices at the Shastri Bhavan on Haddows Road over the installation of statues.
While one section is demanding that the statue of the father of the Indian Constitution, B.R. Ambedkar, be installed in the facade, another section is favouring installing the statue of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri — in whose memory the building is named — at the same spot.
Incidentally, the Union Ministry of Urban Development has sanctioned the proposal for installing a fullsized statue of Shastri in the facade next to the national flagmast. But it has also approved the proposal for installing Ambedkar’s bustsize statue in the lobby of one of the buildings.
“Giving prominence to one national leader over the other is discrimination by the Ministry. Ambedkar is a national leader and is the father of the Constitution. His statue deserves to be installed at the façade,” said Manimegalai V. Mani, president of Shastri Bhavan SC/ ST Women Employees Welfare Association.
She also pointed out that while the Ministry would bear the expenses incurred for the installation of Shastri’s statue, the SC/ST association has to foot the bill for Ambedkar’s bust, which only added to the “discrimination”.
A senior official of the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), which maintains the Shastri Bhavan campus, said the location had been finalised by the Ministry.
“There are three SC/ST associations involved in this issue. Only one association is opposed to the idea,” Yudhistir Naik, Superintending Engineer (Civil), CPWD said. He confirmed that the Ministry would incur the expenses towards Shastri’s statue, which would be between ₹30 lakh and ₹32 lakh, including the pedestal of the statue. But Shastri Bhavan SC/ST Women Employees Welfare Association has taken up the issue with the office of the President as well as with the Union Minister for Urban Affairs.
At loggerheads: A view of Shastri Bhavan on Haddows Road.