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Poll frenzy casts spell on Utkal Gaurav

- Installation of Madhusudan Das’s statue in Puri to miss April deadline

Bhubaneswar, March 31: The statue to be erected in memory of Utkal Gaurav Madhusudan Das in Puri will miss the April 28 deadline, the birthday of the legendary statesman.

Though the state government has pioneered in setting up statues of luminaries throughout the state, when it came to erecting a memorial sculpture of the leader, known as the grand old Odia, in Puri, the same enthusiasm is missing. Not only did Das, popularly known as Madhu babu, protect the Puri temple, but was also the country’s first lawyer to fight for the right of women to practise as lawyers in court and got a legislation enacted.

Nearly nine months ago, the statue plan was unveiled and the district culture committee was given the responsibility to execute the work. But, apart from a quotation call notification, nothing has progressed so far. It seems that the work would be over once the poll frenzy is over and it may take at least five months from now.

Former revenue divisional commissioner Arabinda Kumar Padhee on February 22 last year wrote a letter to the Odisha Mining Corporation to donate Rs 15 lakh to install a 10.6ft high statue of Madhu babu at a spot between governor’s residence and the circuit house in Puri.

“The noted barrister had contributed immensely for the formation of the separate Odisha state and preserved the pride of millions of Odias by winning a case against the British administration. So, we decided to install a statue of Madhu babu in Puri. It would be in style to have the statue at Raj Bhavan Square in Bhubaneswar,” wrote Padhee in his 2013 letter.

Members of the Utkal Samilanifirst requested Padhee to install the statue in Puri. Speaking to The Telegraph, Utkal Samilani president Guruprasad Mohanty said: “Though Madhu babu adopted Christianity, he fought for the pride of Odias and the Jagannath temple. He was, in fact, a pioneer in many things such as initiating entrepreneurship in Odisha and starting the co-operative movement for the first time in India.”

Padhee had consulted the horticulture wing of the Bhubaneswar Development Authority to find the cost of the statue.

“After consulting the statue-makers, we realised that if we go for the statue with a budget of Rs 15 lakh, we would have to compromise with the height. Because peripheral beautification of over 2,000sqft will also be included in the budget,” said executive engineer of the works department Prashant Kumar Sutar.

Authorities said they had invited the quotation regarding specification of the statue and the cost from various agencies. “Once we get the quotations after the general elections, it will hardly take a month’s time to get the statue installed,” said Sutar.

“The authorities are trying to bring down the height of the statue to seven feet as they want to include the cost of the peripheral development, but it should not be the norm. They must arrange the extra money for the beautification,” said a leading sculptor, who has made several statues of Madhu babu.

Mohanty of the Utkal Sammilani, however, said they were demanding a place for the statue of the noted statesman on the beach, so that tourists can notice it. “We feel that the location should be reconsidered,” he said.