New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) Amid severe criticism from Congress leaders, foundation stone for the “Museum of Prime Ministers” was laid on Monday by Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri at the Teen Murti estate here.
The Congress leaders including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been opposing the move, saying that the government was trying to “dilute” Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy by changing the character of the Nehru Memorial Museum Library.
Sharma conducted the Bhoomi Poojan for the proposed museum at the Teen Murti Estate on Monday afternoon and said that the museum will be constructed at a cost of Rs 271 crore. He said that the museum will have a basement, a ground floor and a first floor, with galleries on all levels, and will be completed within a year.
Spread over 10,975.36 sq.m area, Sharma said, the museum shall depict modern India through “the collections relating to each Prime Minister of India, their lives, works and significant contributions made towards nation building”.
He said the national capital at present has memorials dedicated to only three of India’s Prime Ministers — Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri.
“The people of the country deserve to know the contribution of all PMs, including Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, H.D. Deve Gowda, I.K. Gujral, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi,” Sharma added.
He said that the state-of-the-art design of the upcoming museum “is symbolic of an emergent and rising India”.
The Central government’s move to construct the Museum of Prime Ministers inside the premises of the Teen Murti Estate, which, apart from housing the Nehru Memorial Museum Library (NMML) was also Nehru’s residence for 16 years until his death on May 27, 1964, has courted much controversy over the past few months.
In a letter to PM Modi sent last month, Manmohan Singh had urged Modi to “leave the Teen Murti Complex undisturbed as it is”, reminding him that it is a memorial of our first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru. “This way we will be respecting both history and heritage.”
He had argued that “the museum itself must retain its primary focus on Jawaharlal Nehru and the freedom movement because of his unique role having spent almost 10 years in jail between the early 1920s and mid-1940s.
Notably, there is hardly any space in the premises of the Teen Murti complex for the construction of the “Museum of Prime Ministers” without altering the Nehru Memorial Museum Library.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, chaired by Sonia Gandhi and housed in the Teen Murti Estate, had been asked by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to vacate the premises on grounds of “unauthorised occupation”, last month. Sources told IANS that the move was to procure space for the upcoming museum.
The letter from the Ministry had said that NMML is in “dire need of space” and alleged that the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund is occupying the premises “without any authority of law”.
Responding to the notice, N. Balakrishnan, Administrative Secretary of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, refuted its premise and asked that it be withdrawn.
“I hereby refute in unequivocal terms your charge of unauthorised use or unauthorised occupation of the present office premises by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund in the Teen Murti Estate,” Balakrishnan said in his response on September 20.
Balakrishnan told IANS on Monday that there has been no further communication from the government in this regard so far.