The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spot jinx on father figures

The clay feet of the country's first Prime Minister have developed cracks, sparking a war of words between the government and the army, and turning the spotlight back on a location jinx.

With the 12-ft-high bronze statue's pedestal 'precariously damaged' and capable of 'causing an accident resulting in human casualty', Jawaharlal Nehru could be forced to take a walk from the Park Street-Chowringhee intersection, where he has stood tall for 15 years.

If that happens, he would be following in the footsteps of Lord Outram and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who have had to be shifted out of the statue-unfriendly Park Street-Chowringhee intersection.

An equestrian statue of Lt-Gen. James Outram was installed on the spot in 1874. In 1958, the state government replaced it with a full-length statue of Gandhi.

In the late 1970s, the Mahatma, too, was asked to get a move on, as digging and excavation work for the Metro Railway had overrun the Maidan area.

Now, the focus is on the Nehru statue, installed by the Indian Chamber of Commerce in 1989 to commemorate his 100th birth anniversary.

Fort William is engaged in a location lockhorn with Writers' Buildings over the statue's status and its repair.

If the army says 'shift it out', the government says 'no way'.

In its latest letter, the army has suggested that the state government find an alternative site to relocate the statue outside the Maidan area.

Penned by Malook Singh, colonel quartermaster, on May 16, the letter says an alternative spot on the Maidan would be provided only 'in case a suitable site for installing the statue outside the Maidan cannot be found'.

Public works department (PWD) minister Amar Choudhury ruled out relocation. 'There is no space outside the Maidan area where we can put it up,' he stressed.

'The army is neither allowing us to undertake repairs, nor is it doing anything about it. The army will be responsible if there is an accident and the statue topples on someone,' he added.

In February this year, the state government wrote to the army, stating that it should take up immediate repairs.

James Outramís equestrian statue was erected in 1874 at the Chowringhee-Park Street crossing. It was created by the famous Irish sculptor John Henry Foli. The height of the statue is nine ft and four inches.
The statue stood on the spot for 85 years. In 1958, it was replaced by Mahatma Gandhiís statue. The state government then presented Outramís statue to Victoria Memorial Hall and it was placed in the north-east corner of the garden.

'Considering the dignity and prestige (of the statue), we recommend you move it to Raj Bhavan,' replied Fort William, on April 5.

After a flurry of letters from Writers' Buildings, asking whether the army was serious about the suggestion, Fort William finally asked the government to find a suitable site 'outside the Maidan'.

Nehru loyalists assert that the statue should not be relocated for reasons more sentimental than practical.

'This is the only known statue of Nehru in Calcutta. Moreover, it overlooks the stretch of Chowringhee that was renamed Jawaharlal Nehru Road. If this particular spot is vulnerable, the statue could easily be moved back a few feet,' said a state government official.

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