PM Modi lays foun­da­tion of huge statue amid crit­i­cism

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi yes­ter­day laid the foun­da­tion stone for a mas­sive me­mo­rial of a me­dieval war­rior king that’s ex­pected to cost bil­lions of ru­pees and has come un­der crit­i­cism from en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists and oth­ers. The me­mo­rial, which in­cludes a pro­posed 192-meter (630foot) -tall statue of Shivaji, a 16th cen­tury ruler from western In­dia, will be built off the coast of Mum­bai on land re­claimed from the Ara­bian Sea.

The project is ex­pected to be com­pleted by 2019. The govern­ment of Maharashtra state, of which Mum­bai is the cap­i­tal, is ex­pected to spend about 36 bil­lion ru­pees ($530 mil­lion) on the statue. By mid­day yes­ter­day, some 25,900 peo­ple had signed a Change.org pe­ti­tion ask­ing that the govern­ment spend the money on in­fras­truc­ture and de­vel­op­ment in­stead. “Apart from a waste of money, this statue is go­ing to be ter­ri­ble for the en­vi­ron­ment, for the traf­fic sit­u­a­tion in South Bom­bay and a se­cu­rity night­mare,” the pe­ti­tion says. Once com­plete, the statue will be more than twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.

Yes­ter­day, Modi also per­formed a Hindu re­li­gious rit­ual called “Bhoomipu­jan,” or wor­ship­ping the land. The rit­ual is per­formed by devout Hin­dus be­fore the start of any con­struc­tion project. This isn’t the first time that a dizzy­ing amount of tax­payer money has been set aside to build a mas­sive statue or me­mo­rial to a pop­u­lar leader in In­dia.

In 2014, shortly af­ter Modi be­came prime min­is­ter, the na­tional bud­get set aside about 2 bil­lion ru­pees ($34 mil­lion) to build a mas­sive struc­ture to honor in­de­pen­dence leader Val­labb­hai Pa­tel. That project is un­der­way in Modi’s home state of Gu­jarat and once com­plete is ex­pected to cost about 10 times the amount set aside in the bud­get. The rest is ex­pected to be filled by pri­vate and cor­po­rate do­na­tions.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party isn’t alone in its love of stat­ues. Mayawati, a leader from the pop­u­lous north­ern In­dian state of Ut­tar Pradesh who goes by one name, had dozens of stat­ues erected hon­or­ing her and po­lit­i­cal men­tors dur­ing her time as that state’s leader. — AP

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