Playing on Sardar Patel’s epithet, ‘Iron Man of India’, the then Gujarat CM skilfully tried to weave in the sentiments of the farming communities and their pride with the statue that is named as the Statue of Unity. However, the farmers fume at the USD 430 million cost of the statue which could have instead be used in their welfare.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the morning of October 31 unveiled the world’s tallest statue (182 metres)—the ‘Statue of Unity’—constructed in memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat. The inauguration was marked to coincide with the 143rd birth anniversary of Patel, India’s first home minister.
Tomorrow, on the Jayanti of Sardar Patel, the 'Statue of Unity' will be dedicated to the nation.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 30, 2018
Double the height of the world famous Statue of Liberty in New York, the Sardar Patel statue near the Narmada Dam in Gujarat is not only the tallest one in the world but also the one to be completed in the shortest time. The 182 metre Statue of Unity took 33 months to complete while China’s Spring Temple Buddha statue, which was the longest so far, took 11 years. For the ruling BJP, the Statue of Unity is the party’s tribute to what it claims to be a hero forgotten by the Congress.
The fuming farmers
However, from the migrant workers’ distress to farmer’s protests, the voices of unhappiness over the cost of the Sardar Patel statue can be seen in many parts of Gujarat. For years, farmers in the western state of Gujarat have been struggling to find water to irrigate their farmlands. The bronze-clad tribute to Indian independence leader Sardar Patel cost about INR 29.9 billion (USD 430 million) —a large portion of which came from public coffers. The Statue of Liberty in New York, on the other hand, was funded largely through private contributions.
The cost of the statue have fumed the farmers as they say that the amount spent in building the mammoth statue could instead be utilised in their welfare, who still lack basic irrigational facilities and face tragic famines time to time.
This is India’s unity. Poor are ruined in front of “khedutputra” Just underneath of Statue of Unity, we are witnessing a great devide between India’s reach & poor. This must end. Enough is enough. #StatueofUnity pic.twitter.com/WJ8OViF1y0
— Mushtaq Shaikh (@link2mushtaq) October 30, 2018
Not just farmers, a number of tribal villages in the immediate vicinity of the Sardar Patel statue have also called for a bandh (strike) on October 31, to protest the lack of adequate rehabilitation efforts.
The leader, for whom the statue has been built, is believed to himself have been against building statues and memorials. More than that he belonged to a farmer’s family and Sardar Patel was known for his great contribution to the welfare of the farmers and would absolutely be averse to the idea of his statue being built on the cost of their rights.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also from Gujarat, commissioned the statue when he was the state’s chief minister in 2010. In recent years, Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has embraced Patel in an attempt to claim his legacy – and they have accused the opposition Congress party of sidelining him to benefit Nehru’s descendants, three of whom have served as prime ministers.
In fact, last week PM Modi unveiled a 64-ft statue of Jat legend Sir Chhotu Ram in Haryana’s Rohtak, hoping to pander to the influential Jat community as well as the farmers.