‘Statue of Unity’, a proposed 182 metre high statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was one of the much-publicized electoral gimmicks put forward by the NDA in its hype towards the General Elections 2014. Proposed to be built on an island called Sadhu Bet near Vadodara in Gujarat, this gigantic statue will be facing the Narmada Dam. Dubbed to be the world’s largest statue in the making, this much-highlighed statue is expected to enhance tourism infrastructure in the region.
However, some major concerns have cropped up about the construction of this gigantic statue. Firstly, located on an environmentally vulnerable zone in the reservoir of the Narmada Dam, no clearance have been acquired from the Ministry of Environment. Secondly, 927 acres of land are to be acquired which would displace local residents of Kevadia, Kothi, Waghodia, Limbdi, Navagam and Gora villages, who are demanding the rights for their land.
The entire project is estimated to cost Rs. 25 billion. A consortium of Turner Construction, Michael Graves and Associates, and Meinhardt Group – all foreign construction tycoons are being entrusted to supervise the projects. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), the organization which has undertaken the project, has initially declared that it would be built with funds being collected from farmers and workers all over the nation. Around 500,000 farmers are being expected to donate the iron instruments required to build its frame. Donations are being collected nationwide for this project. A publicized marathon named ‘Run for Unity’ was also being organized in several places in December ’13.
However, the NDA Government has also allocated Rs. 2 billion public money from its treasury, thus burdening the public twice for this statue – once in the name of trust, the other from the treasury. While only Rs. 1.5 billion was being spent on women’s safety and only Rs. 1 billion on girl education – allotment of Rs. 2 billion for a statue is nothing but a waste of public money, as well as an insult to the women of our nation, who are being assaulted every now and then. It points out to the mindset of this government, which is trying to highlight its presence through gimmicks instead of attempting at true development of our people. SFI firmly opposes this waste of public money instead of prioritizing security of our women or child education.