Mayawati’s memorials a waste of money?

October 19, 2011

As chief minister of India’s most populous state and the country’s most influential dalit leader, Mayawati is used to getting her way. The memorials she has built around Uttar Pradesh are a testament to that.

The latest one is the “Rashtriya Dalit Smarak” (literally translated as National Dalit Memorial) in Noida, just across the river from the capital New Delhi.

Inaugurated last week, it is certainly an expensive project. Adorning the park are 24 pink sandstone elephants, the electoral symbol of Mayawati’s party, each reportedly costing 7 million rupees and about 12 life-size statues of B.R. Ambedkar (one of the authors of the Indian constitution and a hero among the dalits or “untouchable” caste), Mayawati herself and her mentor Kanshi Ram, each costing about 70 million of the taxpayer’s money, according to news reports.

Elsewhere in her state, a deadly mosquito-borne disease, Japanese Encephalitis, has taken the lives of more than 400 people this year, including more than 370 children, television reports say. A CNN-IBN report said only about 18 million rupees was granted to build a new ward for encephalitis patients in Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

This may be comparing apples with oranges but then we would be missing the point completely. Which is how an elected representative should spend the taxpayer’s money? While a lot may have been done for India’s lower castes, including by Mayawati herself, and a lot more needs to be done in terms of health, education and employment, one fails to see how erecting giant statues of oneself and the party symbol helps any cause.

That the memorial in Noida ran into environmental hurdles shows that if anything, such endeavours cause more damage than good. Although the chief minister later claimed most of the money came from party funds and not taxpayers, building statues of oneself just seems wrong, for lack of a better word, in a working democracy. Shouldn’t erecting expensive monuments be left to monarchs and dictators?

Uttar Pradesh remains one of the poorest states in the country, with high illiteracy and child mortality rates. The state “has struggled with one of the highest infant and child mortality rates in India and polio is still endemic here,” a UNICEF report said.

Given this situation, one wonders if 6.8 billion rupees, the reported cost of the latest memorial, could have been put to better use. Even if the state is more industrialised than before and on its way to development, there is still no excuse for building such edifices.

8 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Another one of the excesses of Mayawati. Hasn’t she done enough already like have millions of rupees pinned to her saree in a cutout ?
Shame on her, her supporters and the passive Indian population and media that such things happen openly in this so called democracy which is having one of the highest growth rates in the world. I predict that very soon India will implode and collapse before it can join the ranks of the truly advanced nations of the world. With India, unlike the autocratic Middle East, the fault lies not just with the government but with the apathetic and cowardly people.

Posted by dhanvantari | Report as abusive

Why would Mayawati build the opulent monuments for Dalits? The answer is Dalit pride. Dalits have been exploited for thousand of years. Her endeavor is to correct the historical injustice.

This sounds plausible if Mayawati had not included herself and her family members in the life and king size monuments. This whole extravagant exercise is not only to garner votes in the name of Dalit pride. This is Mayawati’s way of leaving behind a legacy of Dalit ki beti . Ambedkar had constitution even when he was a failure in politics of independent India. . Will Mayawati’s legacy remain in these statues?

Posted by abhi1498 | Report as abusive

Though building statue for oneself is funny for democrats, such a big parks for dalit icons will definitely instill confidence in the hearts of dalits. slowly and silently , it persuades Upper caste people to treat dalit on par with them!

Posted by janagiramanpp | Report as abusive

Shame on Mayawati,behaving like dictators.How is she getting away with all this ?

Posted by verman | Report as abusive

This is complete waste of resources which Mayawati was not elected to do. Chief Minister’s job is take care the welfare of the people. Building Statue is not in her job description. She should be thrown into jail.

Posted by varkeya | Report as abusive

Maya wants to felicitate the traffic post as watch cop. Like so many former getting wormed up under sizzling sun, she perhaps wants that with his mentor Kanshiram and dead elephant.

Posted by orisamouth | Report as abusive

It seem Miss Mayawati thinking is like Dictator, That’s why he is making her statue, It is absolutely wast of public money. The people of her state should also rethink about ” Which type of people they want in Govt.

Posted by Kotdwr_sanjuRwt | Report as abusive

if mayawati really wanted the dalits to prosper she would put the money to good use in upliftment schemes not making statues of herself,.
what can i say my India dalit populationa nd the ppl also need to work againstdont they even have a little commonsense that she is wasting their money which could be used for creating employement and feeding the poor,.
i feel pity for the ppl of my country and the dalit population who can still let this all happen,.

Posted by vijaypal | Report as abusive