Trib­ute to Unity

The last thing In­dia needs right now is an ex­pen­sive mon­u­ment.

Southasia - - MONUMENT INDIA - By Syed Zee­shan Ahmed

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.

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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,

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