Standing at 182 metres, the statue of one of India’s greatest freedom fighters – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel called the Statue of Unity has been making the news recently for a lot of reasons.
The statue is located near the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River and took almost 4 years to complete. It overtook the Spring Temple Buddha Statue to take the mantle of the world’s tallest statue.
There has been a lot of discussion amongst people about the requirement of such a magnificent gesture. While a certain section of people marvel at such an architectural feat there remains another section which believes it to be a total waste of funds.
This ambitious project was announced by the Gujarat Government under the leadership of then Chief Minister Modi on the 7th of October, 2010. For the next three years, many petitions and other shows of support were held for the construction of the statue. Finally, four years after its inception, the contract to design, build and maintain the statue was awarded to Larsen & Tourbro for around 2989 crore rupees.
On the 31st of October, 2018, the Statue of Unity was unveiled by Prime Minister Modi to much fanfare.
Those in support of the statue lauded it as a magnificent feat of Indian engineering, stating that it can become a major tourist attraction in the years to come. The statue is also expected to last for about a 1000 years and hence can contribute to the Indian economy for a long time. Moreover, people believe that the construction of such a statue can improve national morale as well as increase nationalistic pride.
There is also an expectancy that the statue can help support businesses and people present in the surrounding regions through tourism.
While the Statue of Unity has a lot of benefits, it comes with an equal, if not, a larger share of problems.
The ambitious project has cost the central and state governments a lot of money and although a sizeable portion of that has come from private entities, the government has had to spend around 800 crores for the project.
Many people believe this money could have been better spent on the many issues plaguing our country such as sanitation, public welfare, women safety or other forms of necessary infrastructure.
This money could also have been used to combat several issues in other parts of the country such as the floods in Kerala or Orissa.
There were also reports that the project was given a green light without consulting the Environment Ministry and the whole process was expedited as it was the pet project for the ruling BJP.
Another major issue was that the people from the surrounding villages of Kevadia, Navagam, Gora, Kothi, and Limbdi were not sufficiently compensated and were not pleased with the statue and hence demanded back the land rights of over 900 acres of land that was taken for the building of the statue.
Experts believe that it would take more than 80 years for the Statue of Unity to recover its cost of construction. As a result, the statue feels more like a waste of government funds than something that will generate revenue for the government.
I believe that the statue was a show of strength from the BJP government and although my views may differ from a large part of the populace there is no denying that the massive funds could have been better used elsewhere.
As for the nationalistic pride, the statue is supposed to invoke in us, all I have to say is that if an individual’s pride in their country is affected by a statue then it is not true nationalism. Such sentiments should be born out of love for the country, its people and the values it stands for and not because it has the tallest statue in the world.
The displacement of people from the region is also a big issue and affects their livelihood and forces them to take give up their houses, their jobs, and their communities.
But most importantly, the statue is not apt for a man of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s stature. He was a simplistic man with strong ideals, ideals whose gravitas cannot be captured by a simple statue. Moreover, if he was alive, even he would have opposed such a gesture as he was not one to believe in shows of grandeur.
If the government wanted to honour him, a better way would’ve been to use these funds to adopt a few villages and provide them with all the required facilities and name this scheme after him.
Only time will tell as to whether my views are right or wrong and if the statue is a magnificent success or a blundering failure.
But based on the heated discussion throughout the country, I can say this – The Statue of Unity seems to do the only thing it shouldn’t – DIVIDE US on whether it should exist or not.