At last, Rajendra Prasad’s memorial to be spruced upMarch 25th, 2008 - 9:37 am ICT by admin
By Imran Khan
Patna, March 25 (IANS) A memorial here built in 1985 in honour of India’s first president Rajendra Prasad - which has virtually turned into a den of gamblers and drug addicts due to years of neglect - is finally set for a facelift. The Bihar government plans to develop Rajendra Udyan at Bansh Ghat, next to the river Ganges, on the lines of Rajghat, the lush green, landscaped memorial dedicated to the father of nation, Mahatma Gandhi, in Delhi.
“It is in planning stage; we have hired a consultant firm outside Bihar to prepare a report to develop the memorial to India’s first president Rajendra Prasad in Patna,” Minister for Building Construction Monajir Hassan told IANS over telephone.
Monajir Hassan said the government was serious about developing the memorial. “We have initiated a move to develop it and make it a big tourist attraction,” he said.
Earlier this month, when the neglect of the memorial was highlighted in the state assembly by the opposition, Hassan told the house that it would be developed on the lines of Rajghat.
Rajendra Prasad was born Dec 3, 1884, at Zeradei in Bihar’s Siwan district and died Feb 28, 1963, in Patna. After 12 years as president - from 1950 to 1962 - he retired and was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian honour.
He spent the last months of his life at the Sadaqat Ashram in Patna.
A senior official in the state administration said about “three months ago some small-scale renovation began to restore the memorial and give it a new lease of life.”
A new boundary wall has been erected in place of the original wall that had cracked. A new iron gate was also installed in place of a small one. But that is not enough.
Stink and garbage greet visitors at the memorial. Drug addicts, gamblers, stray dogs, donkeys and cows seek refuge at the site.
The once colourful garden and green lawns of Rajendra Udyan have become a thing of the past. There are only two or three old trees - no attempt has been made to plant new saplings in the last decade or more.
“There used to be a beautiful garden till the 1990s but it withered because a water pipe was disconnected,” said Ganesh Prasad Yadav, who runs a small shop near the memorial.
Yadav said officials engaged in the renovation work had dumped sand in place of soil for gardening and nothing was done to increase the green cover in and around the memorial.
“It is a sad story that neither gardener nor the security guard or caretaker is found on duty, and the newly installed iron gate is hardly ever closed. It is a free for all, no restrictions at all,” an upset Yadav said.
His memorial was built in 1985 thanks to the personal interest taken by then chief minister Bindeshwari Dubey. Barring two days a year - Rajendra Prasad’s birth anniversary, which falls on Dec 3 and his death anniversary Feb 28 - when the governor, chief minister and top officials come calling, its pathetic condition hardly seems to bother anyone.
“This samadhi of the ‘desh-ratn’, as Rajendra Prasad is locally known, is forgotten except for the annual ritualistic respect,” said Surendra Kishore Sharma, a retired government official, who lives in Lodipur not far from the samadhi.
“Now miscreants openly smoke marijuana, drink and gamble there, as there is no one to stop them throughout the year except on those two days,” Sharma said.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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