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#StatueofUnity: ‘Majestic’ statue at the cost of Tribal sustenance?

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Statue of Unity dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on the occasion of his 143rd birth anniversary, questions are being raised whether it was really worth to spend a whopping Rs 3,000 crore amount on the memorial? The statue is located in Narmada district of Gujarat. The Tribals had protested against the statue which was constructed after destroying the forest area and causing harm to the environment. Around 75,000 people from at least 72 villages have been affected by the ‘Statue of Unity’.

Social Activist Medha Patkar had penned an open letter to Sardar Patel and stated that lands of Adivasi labourers were encroached to build this statue. In the letter she has mentioned, “Can you imagine who has built your new avatar? Many Chinese and some local Adivasi and national labourers have worked overnight on the ‘Sadhu Bet’, a hillock with Adivasi deity of their faith. You would surely ask that on whose land this statue would stand! Whose plan was this? This land, river, forest that your avatar is going to stand on, belongs to the Adivasis.”

“Along with the statue, they have also planned a huge tourist project, but they have denied that in one of the petitions filed by the activist from Gujarat a few years ago. Now, it is known that this statue is a part of the largest project which is situated on hill and comes under tribal areas; however, they never consulted the Adivasis. It is also going to affect the river and the communities around. All these are decorative. To construct a project on the bank of river Narmada is not even beneficial to the people of Gujarat,” Medha Patkar said in a chat with Afternoon Voice.

The Modi government has always been using Patel’s legacy for narrow political gains. PM Modi had stated that if Patel would have been made the Prime Minister of India, the scenario would have been much different today. He has spoken highly of Patel’s contribution towards the integration of the nation. On the other hand, Patel has always considered himself as the soldier of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru as his leader.

Social activist Kumar Saptarshi asserted, “It is totally wrong to use such a lump sum amount for constructing a statue and this ideology to make statues is also wrong. It was a political strategy to name the statue as the Statue of Unity as the inauguration just involved Amit Shah, PM Modi, and the CM of Gujarat. The PM could have invited other state Ministers from different political parties but he didn’t. They are using Sardar Patel just to attack Nehru despite Patel being Gandhi and Nehru follower. Sardar Patel would have himself denied for this in his presence and would have put forward Gandhi before him.”

A question which arises here is why PM Modi is too much focussed on the development of Gujarat and ignoring other states? Ever since Modi had become the Prime Minister, many developmental works have been undertaken in Gujarat. The bullet train project has been announced from Ahmedabad to Mumbai. While many leaders have contributed towards India’s freedom struggle but Modi has been always been focussing too much on Patel’s contribution for nation’s independence. Whenever any leader from the foreign countries visits India, they are taken to Gandhinagar instead of other places in the country.

Social Activist Abhijeet Rane said, “As it is said that there are two sides of a coin, the Statue of Unity initiative of the Modi government is a similar example; if we take it positively, it has become a landmark of India and I appreciate this move. Although the costing and price of the tickets are another issue but Modi has made the statue as a tourist attraction so I take it in a very positive manner. However, stating the name with Unity for the statue is their political agenda. They also did not feel it necessary to involve dignitaries’ from the other political parties of other states; however, any political party would do what BJP has done.”

The ‘Statue of Unity’ monument was conceptualised by Modi during his reign as the Gujarat Chief Minister and he laid the foundation stone for it in 2013. It is almost double the size of Statue of Liberty in the US and four times the size of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil. The statue was completed within a span of 33 months. The statue has been designed by noted sculptor Padmabhushan Ram V Sutar. Iron was collected from all over India for the construction of the statue. The fee levied on the entry to the Statue of Unity is Rs 300 which is high as compared to other memorial. How will the money be used for the development work?

The Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge attacked the BJP government for using Sardar Patel’s statue for their vested interests. He said, “Every year the BJP remembers a different freedom fighter. Sometimes they remember Patel, sometimes Gandhi for Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, and sometimes they remember Dr. B R Ambedkar and Subash Chandra Bose.”


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