The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Statue rap

Chennai, May 14: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has rapped the previous DMK government for “irregularities” in the installation of a 133-foot-high statue of Tamil poet-saint Thiruvalluvar unveiled in January 2001, reports our special correspondent.

The CAG report for the year ending on March 31, 2002, placed in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Saturday, pulled up the then Karunanidhi government for “not insisting on detailed accounts” for the advances of about Rs 6 crore directly released to the sthapati (chief sculptor).

The report also slammed the DMK government for not retrieving capital equipment worth about Rs 63.40 lakh procured for the project.

The statue, which stands on a rock off the Kanyakumari seashore, was scheduled to be completed by July 1994. It was finally completed in April 2001, just a month before the previous DMK government was voted out of office and 10 years after it was conceived. In between it saw two regime changes and a sacked government, showing how even a statue of a man who immortalised Tamil literature depended on the vagaries of politics.

The CAG report said that based on the initial estimate of about Rs 3.60 crore, quoted by the sthapati, funds were released in instalments through the Tamil Nadu State Construction Corporation, which was nominated as the monitoring agency.

Work on the statue had commenced in January 1991 — incidentally, the month when the then Karunanidhi government was dismissed under Article 356 by the then Chandra Shekhar government at the Centre.

In February 1991, the sthapati and the construction corporation signed an MoU for executing the project. Two other agreements were also entered into subsequently, including one between the government and the construction corporation that detailed the modalities for establishing the monument, the CAG report said.

The work was, however, stopped in March 1995, “reportedly due to non-availability of funds”. It was resumed in September 1997, after the DMK came back to power in 1996.

The report said that in February 1997, the sthapati had revised the project cost to Rs 6.14 crore largely on the ground that the skilled labourers needed for stone carving were demanding higher wages in the open market for works like temple construction.

The revised estimate contained a “minimum inbuilt excess of Rs 125.90 lakh”, the report said, adding that the government had approved it “without independent verification of the reasonableness of the rates quoted”.

The revised estimate included Rs 63.40 lakh, the amount for procuring capital assets like forklift, crane, chain pulleys, vehicles and a jeep. But after the work’s completion “the capital assets were not handed over to the government,” the report said.

The CAG report blamed the sthapati for having failed to render a detailed account of the total money given to him and the then government, which “did not insist” on such detailed accounts.

The government “failed to obtain vouchers” in support of the claims made by the sthapati, the CAG report concluded.

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