Rameswaram, July 13: Bharat Ratna Dr A P J Abdul Kalam will continue to rest in peace under a tin shed for some more time. The temporary tin shed shelter will continue to be protected by iron barricades, normally used by the policemen to block\divert traffic.
India will observe the first death anniversary of People's President on July 27. House of Kalam is planning to launch many initiatives from Pei Karumbu, his burial site (kabar) in Rameswaram.
After OneIndia first reported (December 2, 2015) about cows and dogs defecating the burial site, a nation-wide media campaign followed, prompting the central government to entrust the fencing work to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Reports had also emerged that DRDO would conduct a memorial design contest and pick up a suitable winner.
But it is now confirmed that DRDO is off the project and Military Engineering Services (MES) have been given the mandate to build the memorial.
MES team members visit Rameswaram
A three-member team consisting Mala Mohan, Additional Director General, Directorate of Architecture, MES along with Rajesh Kumar Kundal, Commander Works Engineer, Navy Chennai and G Raja Mahendra Reddy, Executive, Garrison Engineers, Naval Base Port, Thirunelveli visited Rameswaram on July 12. The team also met members of House of Kalam to elicit their opinion.
Speaking to OneIndia, Mala Mohan said that MES is hoping to get more land from the government. "We have also sought the opinion from the family. We are keen to have a total of eight acres of land (currently it is around 1.6 acres). Nothing is final as of now," she said.
House of Kalam has decided to adopt a 'wait and watch' approach though some family members express their disappointment over the delay in the memorial construction.
Prior to the sad state of affairs of the memorial site was brought to light, Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu had announced on October 15, 2015 -- the 84th birth anniversary of Dr Kalam - that a committee comprising him and Union ministers Manohar Parrikar, Pon Radhakrishnan along with former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy will work out the details of a memorial for Dr Kalam at Rameswaram.
Read: PIB Release from Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) here
But, the memorial plans seem to have got into a loop now with the DRDO confirming that they are no more heading the project. The Ministry of Urban Development handed over the memorial site to DRDO in the first week of February this year so that a fencing could be constructed.
DRDO completes fencing work within 3 months
DRDO began the work for fencing in March this year and completed the task by June, spending around Rs 25 lakh.
"Hamne tho apna task kar diya (We have completed our task)," says an official not wanting to be quoted. "We are off the project now and it's over to MES," he adds.
Sources say at a meeting held on February 23, 2016, it was officially decided to hand over the memorial construction task to MES. The meeting was the first sitting of the 5-member committee set by the MoD.
The committee is headed by J R K Rao, Additional Secretary, MoD with a Joint Secretary from MoUD, ADG (Architect), MES and two representatives from DRDO as its members. The committee had another sitting on April 21, 2016.
DRDO Chief Dr S Christopher had told OneIndia during his recent visit to Bengaluru that the project is now being handed over to MES.
"We have completed our task of fencing. The MoD-appointed committee was of the opinion that Dr Kalam's memorial should not be built by DRDO alone, since he was People's President. The committee wanted to hand over the memorial work to MES," Dr Christopher said.
MES is a premier construction agency which provides rear line engineering support to the Armed Forces. Sources say that the decision to pass on the memorial mantle to MES from DRDO has already been conveyed to Manohar Parrikar.
The online campaign #Justice4GuruKalam launched by Dr Kalam's followers has again picked up momentum with close to 50000 signatories backing the cause since its launch six months ago.
(The writer is an author, blogger and seasoned defence journalist in India. His just-launched book 'Precious Souls' captures inspiring stories of special children and their families. He is the Consulting Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)