There are many more feathers that can be added to the cap when it comes to the Statue of Unity- scheduled to be inaugurated on 31st of October. Standing at a mouth-gaping height of 182 meters, this statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a good 54 meters taller than the Spring Temple Buddha (China). The latter is now the second largest statue in the world.
While the statue is one of PM Modi’s treasured projects, it hasn’t always escaped controversies. Nonetheless, it is the talk of the day. So, let’s take a closer look at this giant replica of India’s very own Iron Man.
Statue of Unity: All You Need to Know
Facing the Narmada dam, the statue of unity is situated on Sadhu Bet, a river island in the state of Gujarat. To facilitate an easier commute to the statue, the Gujarat government has also initiated the construction of a 3.5 km long highway for tourists to reach from Kevadia town.
Designed by Ram V. Sutar, the statue’s features were finalized after studying nearly 2000 archived photographs of Patel. People who had personally seen the man, along with historians were also consulted to make sure the statue of unity looked as accurate and life-like as possible. Here is all you need to know about the legendary statue:
1. Standing at a height of 182 meters, the statue was built by nearly 3000 workers.
2. The construction began on 31st October 2013, also the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
3. There is a viewing gallery at the height of 153 meters, with a capacity of 200 people. It offers an expansive view of the Narmada dam, Satpura and Vindhya mountain ranges, and many more.
4. The total cost of the construction is estimated to be Rs. 2989 crores.
5. A 52-room three-star hotel near the statue is already under construction.
6. Attractions like a shopping center, selfie point will also be in the close periphery.
7. The river island is connected to the mainland via a 30 meters long bridge. However, tourists can also take a boat ride to the statue.
Just two days before the grand inauguration, headmen from 22 villages from nearby areas wrote an open letter addressed to the PM. The letter stated that the villages would not welcome PM Modi when he comes for the inauguration of the Statue of Unity on October 31st. They have also declared a boycott of the function, saying that the construction work led to the destruction of natural resources.
“If Sardar Patel could see the mass destruction of natural resources and injustice have done to us, he would cry”, said a tribal leader.
Not just that, nearly 75,000 tribals from the state are planning a mass protest against the Statue of Unity. Their grievances are regarding the land acquisition in the area- for the Narmada dam project, the statue, as well as other tourism activities recently established in the area. Many tribals complain that after their lands were taken away, they were given a monetary amount, but other promises like that of land weren’t fulfilled. In other cases, the land given by the government is claimed to be non-fertile and thus, of no use.
“We don’t have anything against the great son of Gujarat, Sardar Patel, and his honor should be maintained…. but this government’s development idea is lopsided and against the tribals”, said another tribal leader.
It is not just the common man that is complaining about the gigantic statue. The opposition has hurled several accusations at the government for the statue, declaring that it is merely a political move. It is being said that the huge amount spent on the construction could have been used on actual development instead.
Is the statue a perfect dedication to the Iron Man?
The government is confident that the Statue of Unity will become a major tourist attraction in the state, fetching both- a good reputation, and revenue. Given the features it has to offer, there is no denying that the statue will indeed be the center of attraction for many. However, the one question often asked (and rarely answered), is that how appropriate is it to honor the memory of Sardar Patel in this manner? In the October edition of Prime Minister’s Mann ki Baat, Modi called the Statue of Unity a true homage to Sardar Patel. But, is that really the truth?
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is most often remembered for his efforts to unify the country- something which perhaps explains the name “Statue of Unity”. He was responsible for integrating 533 princely states into the Indian Union, post our independence. Sardar Patel, however, was also a man with deep sympathies for the country’s farmers. His contribution in the 1918 Kheda Satyagraha for peasants, for example, is remembered even today.
Mohan Gurumurthy, from the Centre of Policy Alternatives, says that Sardar Patel himself would never have supported so much of the money being spent on his own statue. Interestingly, while the statue has been constructed by BJP, Patel never approved of the party’s root- RSS. In fact, he even wanted to ban it.
It is a commonly held belief that a more appropriate honor would have been to spend the money directly on the welfare of farmers of India. The statue would certainly attract crowds, yes. But, will it be able to compensate for the huge amount spent? Moreover, again, is this the best way to honor the legacy of a man who believed in simple values?
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