It’s incredible. Tall stands the Iron Man of India – Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel as the Statue of Unity - near the Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in Gujarat, overlooking the river Narmada. And the 597 feet tall statue is visible from space, reassuring the claim that it’s the world’s tallest statue. And so it took years, 250 engineers and over 3,000 labours to build the remarkable statue. But why was it made the tallest statue in the world? What is the mastermind behind it?
Designed by sculptor Ram V Sutar, the statue was unveiled on Patel’s 143rd birth anniversary by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with pride. Unveiling the statue, Modi said that it was a historic and proud moment for all Indians and it represents the sacrifices of the tribals in the country. Lauding Modi’s pride, the Indian media went gaga over it as the Planet Lab shared its first image captured from space on November 15, 2018. The media flashed the satellite image as a reminder of the glory of the great statesman. But the glorification reverberates the voice of many who seem to behold the incredible statue with awe more than they regard the man, the great freedom fighter. It’s unclear whether the people or the supporters of Modi were lauding Patel or the statue being the world’s tallest, or the image from space that appears stunning.
While the wonder structure made news, many view the nearly Rs 3,000 crore spent on setting up the gigantic structure as a waste of money, and some recalled the insufficient relief fund that the Centre released for flood-devasted Kerala and slammed Modi for spending more in the installation of the statue. Former UP Chief Minister Mayawati, who faced huge trouble and similar strings for the installation of statues of Dalit leaders, had also hit back at Modi over Patel’s statue. Now, there’s a wave of fresh mass protest by thousands of poor in the state, demanding jobs and more.
There’s no denying that the statue was set up in honour of the great national leader. But why such a tall statue? Apart from strategic political reasons, if there are any, the record-breaking historic structure would surely draw tourists and visitors to the state. Since the opening of the statue for the public on November 1, reports say it has attracted over 1.28 lakh tourists. It would stand as a great state tourism landmark and the pride of Modi government and his home state more so than the memory of Patel’s contribution and sacrifices to the nation. But would the money generated go to the poor or into the government’s pocket? And was the statue made tall enough so that Modi could hide behind it or take refuge in it from all the arrows darted at him (Modi) for not doing enough for the poor or the common man, the fact that his government is more popular among the rich and wealthy.
Apart from Mayawati and Modi and his pride – the Statue of Unity, several governments and political leaders in India are well known for opting the easy way out in setting up statues not only as a symbolic monument of paying tributes to great leaders but also claimed as their achievements. Symbolic statues are a plenty across the country, but the stories of personalities and their greatness hardly remembered. Many may come to see the statues, garland them or lay flowers beneath, but the old pages of good old glories are today only dug up as fodder for stirring up controversies and endless debates while the makers seem to take refuge in them.
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