Tall men do not need tall statues to be remembered by people

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The money spent in constructing the Statue of Unity might have gone to fund “two new Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campuses, five Indian Institute of Management campuses and six Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) missions to Mars.

 

On October 31, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Statue of Unity at Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat’s Narmada district.

“On the banks of the Narmada stands the majestic statue of a great man, who devoted his entire life towards nation building. It was an absolute honour to dedicate the #StatueOfUnity to the nation. We are grateful to Sardar Patel for all that he did for India,” Modi tweeted after unveiling the statue.

Completed with a record time of 33 months, the Statue of Unity, with a height of 182 metres, is the tallest statue in the world. The engineering marvel is built at an estimated cost of Rs.2,989 crore, it is 29 taller than Spring Temple Buddha of China, which was the world’s tallest till now, and twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty in USA.

Larsen & Toubro (L&T), one of India’s top construction companies, built the mammoth project in the memory of India’s first deputy prime minister Sardar Ballabhbhai Patel. The company designed the statue with the help of Padma Bhushan awardee sculptor Ram V. Sutar, who went through over 2,000 archival photographs of the Sardar to understand his facial features. Over 2,10,000 cubic metres of cement concrete, 18,500 tonnes of reinforced steel and 6,500 tonnes of structural steel  went into the making of the statue. As many as 1,700 tonnes of bronze and 1,850 tonnes of bronze claddings were put together with 6,565 macro and micro panels to give the statue a proper shape.

While the central government claims that it has built the statue as a tribute to India’s “Iron Man”, the Congress has criticised Modi for usurping a “Congress hero” for its own political gain. “Ironic that a statue of Sardar Patel is being inaugurated, but every institution he helped build is being smashed. The systematic destruction of India’s institutions is nothing short of treason,” tweeted Congress president Rahul Gandhi soon after Modi inaugurated the statue.

Politics apart, construction of the world’s tallest statue spending huge funds has also triggered debates about its usefulness in a poor country like India. Many think it’s a mega civil construction job benefiting big companies, including a foundry from China that cast the bronze panels employing around 1,500 Chinese workers, a half of the total workforce engaged in building the statue. As the major works of putting together the statue was undertaken in China, many critics called it a ‘Made in China’ venture.

According to India Spend, the country’s first data journalism portal, the money spent in constructing the Statue of Unity might have gone to fund “two new Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campuses, five Indian Institute of Management campuses and six Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) missions to Mars”.

Then, there is criticism about the displacement of tribal people from the area. The Gujarat government displaced a total of 185 families from the area to make way for the statue. According to the government, they have been compensated adequately, but local tribal people boycotted the inauguration function. They accused the government of destroying the natural resources and livelihood of thousands of people with the construction of the statue.

The government however hopes the Statue of Unity to be a major tourist hub and expects a daily inflow of around 15,000 visitors. The Gujarat government has built a 3-star hotel, a shopping complex and a research centre in the statue complex. There is also a museum that is equipped with 40,000 documents and 2,000 photographs about Sardar Patel.

Critics are however not enthusiastic as the government. Widely viewed YouTuber Dhruv Rathi says that it would turn out to be a major drain on state exchequer as far as economics is concerned. Writing a piece in The Print, Rathi says that Taj Mahal drawing 8 million visitors and earning Rs.25 crore annually is India’s most popular monument. Even if the Statue of Unity is as popular as Taj Mahal, it would take at least 120 years just to break even, keeping aside the maintenance cost. He cites the example of Spring Temple Buddha, which is not even in the list of top 10 tourist destinations of China.

After the unveiling of the Statue of Unity, many opposition leaders questioned why no such statue of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was planned. This is ridiculous. It’s time India should make a policy not to erect such big statues by spending huge funds from state exchequers that can otherwise be spent for betterment of the citizens. Even the tall men would like it that way. Tall men do not need tall statues to be remembered by the people.

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