India’s new budget includes $33 million tallest statue — not everyone is happy
to build the world’s
By Adam Taylor
WASHINGTON: India has just presented its annual budget, which contains measures that seek to encourage growth and limit the deficit.
But one detail in the budget has struck many as incongruous with that plan: the equivalent of about $33 million (two billion rupees) has been set aside to help build a statue. That’s certainly not chump change. And, amazingly, that may not be enough: scroll India reports that the proposed budget for the statue is actually about S415 million.
What kind of statue can you build with that sort of money? Well, if everything goes to plan, you get the grandest statue in the world, standing almost 600 feet tall, with a museum, research centre and even an underwater aquarium. Designed as a tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the founding fathers of modern India, the project has been dubbed the “Statue of Unity” and a chance to “immortalise [India’s] history”.
It may not be so simple, of course. Plans for the Statue of Unity first emerged in 2010, when Narandra Modi, who was then
chief minister of Gujarat state and is now India’s prime minister, announced the construction on an island opposite the Narmada Dam. It will be almost twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and five times as tall as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Modi said at the time, later explaining that “the taller the statue will be, the more India
will be known at the global stage.”
Patel was undoubtedly an important figure for India. The Gujarat native was a key leader during the country’s path to independence and helped to unify the princely states that eventually created India. Patel’s reputation as tough gave him an envious nickname, the “Iron Man of India”, and the proposed statue hopes to
New York Russia Brazil 305ft. 279ft- 130ft.
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reflect this: Modi has asked poor residents of Gujarat to help collect scrap metal for the project. It is hoped that about 5,000 tonnes of iron can be collected for the project.
The inclusion of the public is one key aspect of the statue. Modi has attempted a huge grass-roots outreach for the project, and its funding, a type of public-private
partnership, called for a relatively low state investment that would be bolstered by private investment and public donations. However, even if two billion rupees perhaps seemed fairly modest at the time, few expected India’s central government to pay for the statue, and many in India feel that the money could be better spent: as the Associated Press notes, the budget allocated more money for the statue than for women’s safety programmes or the education of young girls .
While Patel was a leader in the Indian National Congress, many Indians feel that Congress neglected his legacy, focusing instead on the more accepted Nehru-Gandhi pantheon. BJP, Congress’ main rival, has gradually come to see him as a Hindu nationalist and accept him into their fold. Some might argue that t his is a cynical project —a chance for the party to link itself with India’s independence movement or for Modi to set himself up as the next “Iron Man of India” — but many in India feel that Patel never got the recognition he deserved and that the statue is a way to honour him.
—By arrangement with The Washington Post
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