Despite the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) approval of the memorial plan for social reformer Jagannath Shankarshet Murkute, popularly known as Nana Shankarshet, on August 1, 2023, a sense of disappointment lingered as Mumbaikars commemorated the revered founder of Hindustani Railway on his 159th birth anniversary. Many expressed dismay over the municipality's apparent disregard for his legacy.
Representatives from the Daivagya Samajwadi Parishad and Nana Shankarshet Pratishthan extended gratitude to the Municipal Corporation for endorsing the memorial plans. However, despite the passage of six months, the government has failed to allocate funds for the project, leaving it in limbo. Manmohan Chonkar, the general secretary of the Nana Shankarshet Pratishthan, remains hopeful that the memorial will come to fruition with a promised allocation of 25 crores, yet communication from the government has been conspicuously absent.
Sadanand More, president of the State Board of Literature and Culture, echoed sentiments of dismay, questioning why the contributions of Nana Shankarshet, spanning various fields such as Sanskrit literature, railway development, education, and social reform, continue to be overlooked. He advocated for a national-level memorial, urging collaborative efforts from the Central Government, State Government, and the University of Mumbai to honor Nana's legacy appropriately.
Shiv Sena (UBT) MLA Sunil Prabhu has raised consistent queries with the BMC regarding the stalled memorial project. In an interview with FPJ, he expressed deep disappointment over the government's alleged financial constraints, stating, "It is very unfortunate that the government does not have the funds to support this endeavor."
Prabhu vehemently urged the state government during the winter session of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly to allocate Rs 25 crore for Nana Shankarshet's memorial in Wadala. Despite continuous reminders during budget sessions about the importance of addressing these concerns, Prabhu criticised the government's perceived indifference, likening it to a state of somnolence. He emphasised the emergence of numerous social reformers in the state and underscored the significance of Nana Shankarshet's memorial in honoring his contributions.
"Perhaps my role as an MLA associated with the Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray group could hinder the fulfillment of this request, as credit for it may be attributed to Uddhav Thackeray. However, this memorial is not just about political recognition; it holds immense significance for Mumbai. Even in the upcoming supplementary budget discussions, I urge the government to consider allocating funds for it."
Milind Panchal of the MNS emphasised that while the government allocated a plot for the construction of Nana Shankarshet's memorial, the plot has since been abandoned. He lamented the government's apparent disregard for Nana Shankarshet, highlighting his significant contributions to Mumbai's development and his efforts to benefit the people. As a result, his memorial stands neglected, symbolising a missed opportunity to honor his legacy.
Highlighting Nana Shankarshet's multifaceted contributions to society, including his philanthropic endeavors and pivotal role in outlawing the practice of sati, the need for a fitting tribute to his legacy becomes evident. His philanthropy, comparable to that of the Parsis, played a crucial role in shaping Mumbai into a city of commerce, culture, and intellectual capital, yet his contributions remain largely unrecognised.
In light of the pervasive neglect, the absence of a memorial honoring Nana Shankarshet's remarkable life and deeds is a poignant reminder of Mumbai's oversight. As discussions persist, the urgency of allocating funds for the memorial project underscores the importance of preserving Nana Shankarshet's enduring legacy for future generations.