Ahmedabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Wednesday unveil and dedicate to the nation the ‘Statue of Unity‘, a 182-metre giant structure built in honour of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The statue will be inaugurated commemorating the 143rd birth anniversary of Patel who played a key role in unifying India. Also Read - 'Unlock 1' in Gujarat: New Set of Relaxations Announced | Read Guidelines Here
The imposing monument, touted as the world’s tallest statue, is twice the height of Statue of Liberty and is built on an islet, Sadhu Bet, near the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Narmada district. Also Read - Coronavirus: As Second-Last Day of Lockdown 4.0 Ends, Here's Where The Four Most-Affected States Stand
After Modi unveils the statue, three IAF planes would fly past and create the tricolour in the sky by emitting saffron, white and green colours, said an official release Tuesday. Also Read - Lockdown 5.0? Netizens Gear Up to Face the Extension With Hilarious Memes & Jokes
Modi would also inaugurate the ‘Wall of Unity’ (a monument defining India’s unity) near the statue. At that time, three Jaguar fighter jets would fly past the structure at a low altitude, said the release.
After inaugurating the Wall of Unity, PM Modi would offer floral tributes to Patel, whose birth anniversary falls on October 31. At the same time, two MI-17 helicopters would shower flowers on the statue, it said.
On the occasion, cultural and musical programmes will be performed by the bands of Gujarat Police, armed and paramilitary forces.
There will be dance and musical performances by artistes drawn from 29 states and two Union Territories.
Some of other major attractions include inauguration of a 17-km-long Valley of Flowers, a tent city for tourists near the statue and a museum dedicated to the life and times of Patel.
A viewing gallery at a height of 135 metres has been created inside the statue to enable tourists to have a view of the dam and nearby mountain ranges.
The statue has been built using over 70,000 tonnes of cement, 18,500 tonnes of reinforcement steel, 6,000 tonnes of structural steel and 1,700 metric tonnes of bronze, which was used for the outer cladding of the structure, according to the government statement.
Initially the cost of the statue was estimated around Rs 3,000 crore. But when the bidding process for the design, construction and maintenance of the statue was carried out, Larsen and Turbo won the contract at Rs 2,989 crore.
75,000 Tribals Plan Mass Protest Against Statue
The statue’s construction had received opposition from some tribal groups in Narmada district.
Meanwhile, local tribal leaders have announced a boycott of Wednesday’s event claiming “mass destruction” of natural resources due to the project.
Local tribal organisations said as many as 75,000 tribals adversely affected by the Statue of Unity project would oppose the unveiling in Narmada district.
“No food will be cooked in 72 villages affected by the entire project, as we will be mourning on that day. The project is being carried out for our destruction,” said Dr Praful Vasava, a tribal leader. Traditionally, food is not cooked in a tribal village when they are mourning for the dead.
He told IANS, “Our rights as tribals are being violated by the government. We don’t have anything against the great son of Gujarat, Sardar Patel, and his honour should be maintained. We are not against this development even, but this government’s development idea is lopsided and against the tribals.”
The tribals are complaining that their lands were taken away for the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Project, near the statue site, as well as for the statue of unity and all other tourism activities which have been planned in the area.
According to Mr Vasava, this “non-cooperation movement” is being supported by around 100 small and big tribal organisations across the state. He said, “Right from Banaskantha in North Gujarat to the Dangs district in South Gujarat, nine tribal districts will be joining us in the agitation. The bandh will not only be limited to schools, offices or commercial establishments, but households will also be silent (no cooking).”
Out of the 72 villages affected by the statue project, the most affected are 32, where 19 villages are where rehabilitation has not been allegedly completed, six villages where the current Kevadia colony is situated and seven villages in Garudeshwar block, where only compensation has been paid but other commitments like land and jobs have not been fulfilled.
In an open letter addressed to Modi, sarpanches of 22 villages situated near the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river have said villagers will not welcome the prime minister when he arrives for the function.
“We villagers want to tell you with extreme grief that we will not welcome you on October 31. Even if you come here like an unwanted guest, you are not welcome here,” said the common letter signed by sarpanches of the villages of Narmada district, located around 200 km from Ahmedabad.
The area still lacks basic facilities like schools, hospitals and drinking water, they alleged.
Political Slugfest Over ‘Statue of Unity’
Few months ago, a political slugfest had erupted over the construction of the statue with the Congress alleging the involvement of Chinese officials in the process.
“Prime Minister used to say that we will install the statue of Sardar Patel in Gujarat. It is unfortunate that the iron man’s statue will be inscribed with ‘Made-in-China’ as it is being made by China,” Rahul Gandhi had alleged.
This prompted a sharp reaction from the BJP which asked Congress president to ‘stop belittling great personalities’.
What The Foreign Media Says About ‘Statue of Unity’
The unveiling of 182-metre statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat has evoked mixed response from the international media from being described as “a showcase of India’s growing prosperity” to being a result of “political ego of its leader”.
“The $408 million gold-coloured colossus also spills over into present-day politics. It is considered a trifecta for Prime Minister Narendra Modi: a nod to his Hindu political base, a landmark site in his home state, and a showcase of the nation’s growing prosperity and status as a rising global power,” said a report in the Washington Post.
“Instead of spending money on a giant statue, the government should have used it for farmers in the district,” said a report in the BBC. It highlighted a 2016 government report which said that the Narmada district is home to several who live in hunger.
Pakistan’s Express Tribune wrote: “It has became an example of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) efforts to appropriate a popular national figure, as Patel was a member of the Congress Party, which now sits in opposition to BJP in India’s parliament.”