Kevadia (Gujarat) (IANS): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday dedicated the 182-metre high ‘Statue of Unity’ in honour of country’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to the nation.
Built on Sadhu Bet Island on Narmada river, the imposing statue is touted to be the world’s tallest.
The Rs 2,389 crore monument is a tribute to Patel who played a major role in integrating the princely states into the Indian Union after the partition of 1947.
It is almost 29 metres taller than China’s Spring Temple Buddha that stands at 153 metres, and almost twice as high as the 93-metre Statue of Liberty in New York.
Three Indian Air Force planes flew past the Patel figure and created the tricolour in the sky after Modi inaugurated the giant.
The Gujarat government expects the statue to boost tourism, with one estimate putting the daily numbers at 15,000.
Apart from the Patel bronze figure, other major attractions include inauguration of a 17-km-long Valley of Flowers, a Tent City for tourists near the statue and a museum dedicated to the life and times of Patel.
The Tent City, located around four km from the Statue of Unity, can house more than 500 tourists at a time.
A viewing gallery at a height of 153 metres has been created inside the statue to enable tourists to have a view of 1,210 metre long concrete Sardar Sarovar Dam, 3.2 km upstream as well as the nearby Satpura and Vindhya mountain ranges.
As per a government statement, the statue has been built using over 70,000 tonnes of cement, 18,500 tonnes of reinforced steel, 6,000 tonnes of structural steel and 1,700 tonnes of bronze, which was used for the outer cladding of the structure.
Modi was accompanied by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
When Modi was unveiling the statue, thousands of tribals across the eastern tribal belt of Gujarat, including the Narmada district where the massive structure is located, were observing a pin-drop silence bandh.
Kitchen fires in homes of an estimated 75,000 Adivasis in 72 villages were cold, and in keeping with the convention of not cooking when mourning the dead.
The bandh was in protest against acquisition of their land without adequate compensation for the statue project, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam and the Garudeswar weir, which is a part of the dam.
Tribal leader Praful Vasava, who has been leading the protest ever since the project was declared by Narendra Modi as a chief minister in 2013, said, “We are all for giving honour to Sardar Patel, but this is something which is at the cost of our very existence.” Sardar Patel would never have agreed to this, he said.
Around 72 villages are estimated to be affected by the statue project. There are 32 where their rehabilitation has been left half way, there are six villages where the Kevadia Colony housing the staff of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam project is situated and seven villages are in Garudeshwar block, where only cash compensation was given, but other commitments like land for land or jobs have not been fulfilled.
FORMER Gujarat Chief Minister and expelled rebel Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela on Monday had mocked Modi regarding Patel’s “Statue of Unity” project dubbing it a “marketing gimmick” and asked him to first unite the Central Bureau of Investigation (India’s FBI) and the Reserve Bank of India.
When the internal fighting among the top brass of leading institutions like the CBI and the RBI has come out in the open, the Prime Minister should deal with this crisis first and then speak of unity, Vaghela said.
“Which unity are you talking about?” the former BJP leader asked while talking to reporters here. “First unite the CBI, the RBI. Unite for saving the downfall of Indian rupee, unite for bringing down fuel prices,” he said.
“When you are talking about Sardar, release the jailed Patidar youth,” Vaghela asserted, referring to Alpesh Kathiriya, a close associate of firebrand Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who is in jail on sedition charges. Patel also faces similar charges.
Vaghela said: “There can be no comparison between the simplicity and austerity of the Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel, and the construction and the motive behind the State of Unity. The project is of around Rs 3,000 crore [1 crore = 10 million], a sheer wastage and unproductive expense of public money when Gujarat is laden with a public debt of Rs 250,000 crore.”
Vaghela, who was credited with building the BJP in Gujarat with Narendra Modi in tow in the late 80s and early 90s, asked: “Why the sudden love for Sardar whose very name you did not like once?”
Vaghela recalled the time when he was the Chief Minister and during an event on the naming of the Ahmedabad airport as the Sardar Patel International Airport, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members dressed in black and waving black flags had vehemently opposed the naming in front of then Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.
“One shouldn’t have the impression that these people love Sardar… This is just using his name to market themselves. They make a hue and cry of injustice meted out to the Iron Man. When I met Maniben, Sardar Patel’s daughter, she said there was never any injustice to Sardar. He didn’t even have the aspirations to be the PM. Which injustice are you talking about?” asked Vaghela.
“I challenge these people to show me one instance of injustice to the great man,” he said.
Vaghela said: “I see the unveiling of the Statue of Unity as a desperate attempt by the BJP to gain political mileage and nothing else. They are losing public support. Not a single work was done by this government in four-and-half years for the common man.
“Tribals are unhappy, farmers are committing suicides… The government should listen to them,” he added.
“The UPA government allotted around Rs 15 to 17 crore for the Sardar Patel memorial near Ahmedabad airport. Has Modi even visited the place once? After UPA, what have you done for it if you love Sardar so much?” Vaghela asked.