In 2014, the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi laid the groundwork to the world’s tallest statue of Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel statue calling it the ‘Statue of Unity’ . The ‘Statue of Unity’ will stand 597 ft. tall when completed in 42 months, almost 100 ft. taller than China’s Spring Temple Buddha, the world’s current tallest statue at 502 ft. It will be nearly twice as high as the Statue of Liberty in New York, which is 305 ft. Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square stands at 170 ft. The soaring statue in the world will also have a tall budget wanting 3000 crores in total out of the national treasuries. When the statue is ready the world will be forced to look at India.
In opposition stands the Shivaji Memorial Statue which stands tall with a budget of 3600 crores. The figure will be in competition to the Vallabbhai Statue with a height of 695 feet, capably sending the government into a cash crunch when it comes to matters like farmer suicide, poverty and the rest.
The Shivaji statue has come under severe reproach because of the ecological problems it will create and the effect it will have on the fishers in the area. But the government has defended its judgement saying that the statue will attract a lot of tourism. National statistics show us that even the Taj Majal generates only revenue of Rs 2 to 2.5 crores per annum. At this rate, it will take centuries for us to recover the cost of the statue. The Archaeological Survey of India has registered over 200 heritage sites in India that are in calamitous need of maintenance. But our government chooses to create new memorials when it fails to maintain the old ones. We are willing to fuel governmental agendas of the Hindu Nationalist while we fail to preserve our legacy.
But do we really need any more statues? The budget of 2014 assigned 200 Cr for the statue of unity, Rs 150 Cr to the cause of women’s safety, 100 Cr for the schooling of young girls and 100 Cr for Muslim education centres. What does this say about the priorities of our government? At both national and state level our government is taking decisions that are extravagant and tangibly visible to everyone but fails to cure the nation at the grass root level. The government needs to realize that no manner of international praise will serve the hunger of the millions of poor in the country. The budget of the Shivaji Memorial is in sharp contrast to the meager 270 crores set aside for undernourished children. Officials tell us that is no big deal because a budget of 3100 crores has also been set aside for the Mumbai metro project. Well, we can’t really travel on a 600 ft. statue, can we?
The two statues are colossal and lavish disasters made out of the nation’s taxes and are a living epitome not of our past heroes but of our current frauds. In the words of Shashi Tharoor “100 Cr for “beti bachao/beti padhao” vs 200 Cr for Patel statue in Gujarat. I suppose for BJP neither beti nor murti has a voice”