Cabinet set to clear Bill for Ambedkar memorial in Mumbai

In December last year, the Centre announced that Indu Mill land in Mumbai would be given to the Maharashtra Government for constructing a memorial to B R Ambedkar. The then Union Textile, Anand Sharma, even made statements in both Houses of Parliament about the same.

Following the announcement, the Textile Ministry started processing the decision. But, for almost a year, nothing moved. The reason was that the government realised, belatedly though, that if the land was to be transferred to the state government, a mere executive order would not serve the purpose and a new legislation would be required to be passed by Parliament.

On Thursday, the Union cabinet could finally take a final call on the Acquisition of Certain Area in Mumbai for Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar Memorial Bill, 2013, which would empower the Centre to acquire "certain area in Mumbai belonging to the National Textile Corporation Limited (NTCL) for facilitation of the construction of a memorial for Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar".

Incidentally, the land in question — over 48,000 square metres of prime Mumbai land situated in Dadar — came into the possession of NTCL courtesy the Sick Textile Undertakings (Nationalisation) Act, 1974 and, as per the draft cabinet note, the government is planning to pay Rs 45.77 crore in lieu of the land. Even by conservative estimates the land is worth many times more than what the Centre plans to pay to NTCL.

The ashes of Ambedkar are interred at Chaitya Bhoomi, which is situated in the vicinity of the Indu Mill.

With general elections barely six months away, the move to hasten the construction of the memorial will certainly be viewed as political, aimed a the large Dalit votebank.

Though, for the record, the cabinet note states the rationale behind the move as an effort to "inspire and motivate the citizens and, in particular, the members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes".

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