M Tariq Khan
Lucknow, September 17, 2007
It is an elephantine task indeed. Two elephants are to be shifted. No, not from a real but, from a concrete jungle. And the job requires skilled masons not ‘mahouts.’ A challenging assignment considering that the pair of white elephants (pun intended) is currently worth Rs 1 crore a piece!
Strange though it may sound, but on Tuesday the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) would finalise the bid inviting services of qualified and experienced artisans for removing and relocating the two precious pachyderms from the Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal. “Made of white marble, these elephants would have to be very carefully prised out from their present location at the main entrance plaza of the monument and moved to another place, where they would be kept in safe custody till further orders,” said an LDA officials on condition of anonymity.
“The statue of Gautam Buddha from the Buddh Sthal located adjacent to the main entrance plaza too would be taken out and shifted along with the two elephants,” said the official refusing to disclose the location to which they would be shifted. Asked if the statues would be put back in place once the renovation was over, the official replied in the negative. “I have no idea what is to be done of them. The decision to move these statues was taken in view of the revamp of the monument ordered by chief minister Mayawati and ongoing development/construction work on the premises,” he said.
Weighing more than a ton, the elephants were put up inside the monument in 1997. “They had cost around Rs 37 lakh then,” said a sculptor adding that their present combined market value would be around Rs 2 crore. “In fact, noted architect Satish Gujral had quoted a price of Rs 1.5 crore for one elephant then. The price was considered too steep by the LDA which subsequently decided to get the job done by a local sculptor,” he said.
While the State Government has already sanctioned Rs 322 crore for the monument’s makeover, according to sources in the LDA, the Rajkiye Nirman Nigam (RNN), the construction agency, has sought over Rs 1100 crore. “The project report submitted by them (RNN) has been forwarded to the expenditure and finance committee of the State Government where it was still under review,” said an official.