Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has inaugurated Rs 685 crore magnum opus Bhim Rao Ambedkar Park dedicated to Dalit leaders in Noida.
With statues of 24 elephants, the symbol of her Bahujan Samaj Party, and of Dalit icons BR Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram and of herself, the 82-acre Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal and Green Garden has been a subject of massive controversy.
Mayawati, in a speech after the inauguration, said the money spent on the Rs 685-crore park came from donations and only "one percent" of state goverment funds were used. She justified the park on the grounds that it honoured Dalit leaders and question. She questioned the memorials and projects named after members of the Nehru Gandhi family.
Thousands of people had gathered since morning to watch Mayawati inaugurate the park on the outskirts of New Delhi, with many political observers saying that it was a move aimed at the assembly elections next year.
Unmindful of the criticism that she has received for the park with some describing ut as monumental folly, Mayawati touched down in a helicopter at 4.50pm in Film City in Noida.
As TV cameras captured the moment, a beaming Mayawati went around the premises. Buddhist monks chanted prayers. Unusually, her parents Ramrati and father Prabhu Dass were with her.
Traffic in and around Noida came to a standstill. Police officials said they had a tough time in controlling the surging crowds.Bhim Rao Ambedkar Park
The 33 hectare project in Noida's sector has 15 statues of Dalit icons Dr BR Ambedkar, Jyotirao Phule and Kanshi Ram.
Bronze statues of Mayawati have also been erected in Noida. Twenty statues of elephants and fountains with bronze elephants have also been installed in the park.
The UP chief minister, known for her fondness for statues, also has a special police force to protect parks and memorials for Dalit icons. Latest LED tubes, that cost around Rs 4crore, have been installed in the park, to make the structures look more attractive at night.
“The lighting solutions have been provided by foreign firm Philips Gardco. More than 3,000 LED tubes have been installed in the park. Each tube costs Rs 12,000,” said a senior project manager.
In December 2010, vacating its year-long stay, the Supreme Court (SC) had approved resuming construction in the Park, rejecting the Centre's objection that part of its site was on forest land.
The court said construction could start only after the government planted sufficient number of trees on 50% of the Park area to create a buffer zone between the site and adjacent Okhla bird sanctuary.
In addition, the apex court also observed that the area under concrete structures should be brought down from 35% of the project site to 25% because of the Park's proximity to an eco-sensitive zone in the sanctuary.
Meanwhile, everything in the Ambedkar Park exists for a reason. “The boundary stone was specially ordered from Mirzapur, a Naxal-affected district, by Behenji to provide employment to tribals,” said a senior civil engineer, requesting anonymity.
The main structure, christened Dalit Prerna Sthal, houses statues of Dr BR Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and Mayawati.