Peikarumbu (Rameswaram): Seven months after taking over the reins of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), its chairman Dr G Satheesh Reddy visited Dr A P J Abdul Kalam National Memorial, situated at the temple town of Rameswaram, recently.
Dr Reddy’s visit follows a series of issues that had been plaguing the prestigious memorial, built at the resting place (kabr) of former president.
Onmanorama had earlier this year reported about the sad state of affairs of the memorial that lacked proper facilities for visitors among others.
Inaugurated on July 27, 2017 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the memorial had breached the 50-lakh visitor mark in January this year. Till date, the memorial has 56.30 lakh footprints with an average of 9000 visitors every day.
Following Onmanorama’s report, the DRDO opened the 'brand new' toilets kept under lock by the Civil Works and Estates (CWE), its construction arm.
The Onmanorama report had triggered an outrage on social media prompting the DRDO top brass to convene a meeting of the CWE team to resolve the issue.
During Dr Reddy’s recent visit to the memorial, he is said to have taken stock of every nagging issues. He held discussions with locals and members of House of Kalam as well. Interestingly, the DRDO has kept mum on the visit.
A DRDO official from HQ in Delhi told Onmanorama that Dr Reddy gave instructions to the memorial in-charge Sheik Ghouse that all matters of concerns should be brought to him on priority.
“Almost all issues were resolved well before his visit. Mainly the toilets and drinking water issues have been resolved now. The parking lot near the memorial is held up for want of land that needs to be transferred from the Tamil Nadu government,” the official said.
He said matters related to non-payment to local contractors are being addressed on priority now.
“We have instructed to clear the balance payments to the local contractors. Some have been already been released and the remaining will be cleared soon. DRDO doesn’t want to be pulled into any controversies. There were some lapses at our part that have been set right now,” the official said.
House of Kalam said Dr Reddy gave a patient hearing to all concerns the family had.
“We are keen to take the national memorial to the next level. We have given our representation and Dr Reddy has promised to look into it. We are happy that the DRDO Chairman is serious about the memorial matters. The communication channels are open now,” Dr Nazima Maraikayar, Founder Trustee of Kalam Foundation told Onmanorama.
The family wants a souvenir shop and a canteen facility too opened at the earliest.
The Phase-2 work of memorial will be the next big task for the DRDO, as it will have to wade through tricky issues of land acquisition.
Interestingly, Sudha Pillai, an independent travel writer based out of Bengaluru, who visited Rameswaram last week, said the memorial time should be extended.
“It would be really helpful if it is kept open till 8 pm in the night. It is always crowded and that prevents people from visiting if they are on very short trips. You need two hours to completely visit the memorial and by the time you hit the place in the evening it is closed,” says Sudha, who was in Rameswaram as part of an international assignment.
The memorial is now open from 9 am to 6 pm now.
Adv M Somasundaram, who is practising at Ramanathapuram, which is the district headquarters, feels that the development activities promised in the Phase-2 must be taken up immediately.
“An auditorium, planetarium and library are among the new facilities that are still to be set up. The memorial needs more attention from DRDO and the government,” Adv Somasundaram says.
He said now visitors are parking on the highway blocking the view of the memorial.
“A proper parking facility should be in at the earliest,” he adds.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)