Tribute to Unity
The last thing India needs right now is an expensive monument.
The Statue of Unity project was first announced on October 10, 2010 at a press conference by Narendra Modi, who was then marking the occasion of his 10th year as chief minister of Gujarat. Since then, the project has evolved into something much bigger. But what is it all about?
The statue itself will be of the famous statesman Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, more commonly known as Sardar Patel. Born in 1875 in Gujarat, Sardar Patel is revered as one of the founding fathers of India and was a leading figure of the independence movement Known for his efforts to build the foundations of modern India, Sardar Patel also served as the first home minister and deputy prime minister of the country. The ‘Iron Man of India’ died in 1950. The Statue of Unity will be built to honor the contributions of Sardar Patel, including his efforts to bring together the princely states of India to form a unified republic.
However, Sardar Patel has been a target of criticism as well. Some have accused him of having an antiMuslim stance while others, including noted scholar Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, have rejected the notion, calling him proHindu, but not anti-Muslim.
For the statue’s construction, a trust called Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET) was set up by the Gujarat government. An interesting task of the trust was to collect iron from farmers across India. Farmers were supposed to donate their iron instruments which were to be used in the building of the statue. But as it has turned out, the iron will not be used for the statue itself but for the other parts of the project.
Being built on a river island called Sadhu Bet, facing the Narmada Dam in Gujarat, the Statue of Unity will be the tallest statue in the world on completion, leaving behind the Spring Temple Buddha in China. It will be 182 meters in height (excluding the base structure of 58 meters). The project will also include research centers, amusement parks, memorial centers, museum, etc. The construction of the Statue of Unity started on October 31, 2013. The total cost of the project was estimated at $300 million. However, the cost is likely to exceed once the construction starts and may reach $415.
The project has attracted controversies since its inception, which reached new heights when an amount of $34 million was allocated for it in the 2014-15 budget. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Questions are now being asked about the source of materials required to build such a gigantic statue along with other parts of the project. According to analysts, the iron that has been collected so far is not enough while some other materials to be used are of a questionable quality. But there is more. Donations for the project have also started to dry up, putting the government’s claims to a test. However, PM Modi, who once said that the taller the statue will be,