At Rs 685 crore, it is an expensive dream. But Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has pulled out all stops to ensure that it becomes a grand reality and at 5 pm today she will arrive by helicopter to inaugurate the Rashtriya Dalit Smarak in Noida and a stone's throw from Delhi, the seat of power. To make it a smooth affair, 2,500 policemen have been stationed.
The memorial is meant to honour Dalit icons and has over two dozen huge statues of Mayawati, her mentor Kanshi Ram and Dr BR Ambedkar, among others. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief will first cut a ribbon and then is expected to address about 40,000 party workers. A special helipad has been set up at the Apeejay School ground in Noida's Film City for the CM's helicopter to land and take off.
The Noida administration, out to impress "Behenji," has left no stone unturned for a grand opening of the park. High-tech LED lights and fountains are in place and a special security force will permanently guard the memorial.
The administration expects between 50,000 to 70,000 people from across UP to gather and the arrangements are massive. There are a total 2,500 policemen stationed at two locations. This includes nine Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) companies, 175 traffic policemen, 50 women cops, 1050 police constables, 184 sub-inspectors, 25 Station House Officers (SHO), 15 Superintendents of Police (SPs) and seven Additional SPs.
Then there are anti-sabotage units, bomb disposal squads, NSG teams, local intelligence units, and the members of the CM's security. Fire services have been stationed.
But Noida residents might not share Behenji's proud smile. Traffic woes have already begun with huge jams being reported. Traffic is being diverted at several places ahead of the inauguration - including at the Film City crossing and Mahamaya flyover. More traffic diversions have been announced between 3pm and 7pm. (Traffic mess in Noida, read police advisory here)
Noida saw long traffic jams throughout the day yesterday too with several important stretches partly blocked to allow last-minute renovation work.
Residents in fact have had Mayawati's memorial park is built on a land that initially housed a public park. When work first began on Mayawati's dream memorial in 2008, Noida residents were upset as they were denied access to the park. Then, over 6000 trees were cut.
Angry residents moved the Supreme Court. An initial enquiry ordered by the Environment Ministry found several environmental violations. And the fact that the memorial was coming up close to the Okhla Bird Sanctuary further complicated matters. But in December last year, the Supreme Court cleared the project with a rider - not more than 25 percent of the total 84 acres could be paved, the rest would have to be planted with trees.
Several other appeals in court have challenged Mayawati's decision to use taxpayers' money to fund her mega memorials. Many of those remain unsettled. Accusing Mayawati of having a feudal mindset, Opposition parties have alleged that she has spent crores of rupees of public money for installing statues of her family members. "After statues of Dalit icons like Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram have been set up at several places, Mayawati is out to install statues of her parents," Congress spokesman Subodh Srivastava said.