It was Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who unveiled the world's tallest Gandhi statue almost a year ago at the historic Gandhi Maidan. The intention of spending 10 crore was as ambiguous then as it is today, given there happens to be a well maintained statue of ‘Bapu’ at the Southern end. This poor state spent a handsome 10 crore to fulfil the personal wish of a Chief Minister. But unfortunately ‘Bapu’ in his new, 40 feet (72 feet, including pedestal) bronze avatar has to experience the greatest trouble this historic Gandhi Maidan has ever witnessed.
At present Gandhi Maidan is in the most pathetic state. The Bankipore Maidan or the Doranda Singh Maidan or as some government documents suggest Race Course or the Oval, the ‘lawn’, the ‘lung’ or the ‘breathing point’ or whatever you call it, the identity of this capital city is fighting for its survival. And to our surprise courtesy - the Bihar government and the personal wish of the CM again.
If sources are to be believed, the Maidan was allotted to the firm on a nominal charge of just Rs. 2 against the standard hiring rent of Rs. 20 per sq. feet per month, for any commercial activity. Despite repeated approach neither the DM office nor the Urban Development department argues its rational for this handsome 10 times rebate for a 100% commercial profit making venture. People smell a rat here, Mr. Kumar.
In my earlier story at the PatnaDaily, I revealed the issue of the blunders being made by the government selecting the site between Police HQ and Gandhi Sangrahalay for the construction of the huge convention center given the space crunch and the traffic congestion in the area. Now the effect has surfaced and Gandhi Maidan became the first prey. The proposal for the mega project had earlier faced protests when students and teachers of Magadh Mahila College hit the streets against the move to block the entry to their campus. Some activists also put questions and local media also helped the issue hit the headline.
The Chief Minister was also conveyed, but he made a mockery of the concern, saying he used to visit the women's college to meet his ‘love’ and he knows there are many slip roads to reach the college, hence all these resistance is opposition’s drama. Nitish’ reaction to such serious concerns reminded us of the Lalu era when people had to meet with similar shocking response to serious issues.
Insulted by the Chief Minister, common man of this city took the cudgel to save the Gandhi Maidan. Common people, eminent citizens, morning walkers, and social activists took up their sleeves and come together under the banner of ‘Gandhi Maidan Bachao Sangharsh Samiti’ to put pressure on the Government to cancel the allotment.
Committee president Mrityunjay Tiwari and local legislatures joined the mission. Under severe pressure local media too had to take the issue up. Several dharnas, marches, posters continued for weeks and ultimately a reluctant state government had to cancel the allotment. But the large set up is still there as it was. Trucks and heavy vehicles continue to trample the lush green grasses. The authority is still assuring that the setup will be removed by the company itself, but it fails to make any deadline.
Amit K. Sinha is a bilingual investigative journalist who works independently. For the last couple of years he is in Patna writing for many prints and portals.