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Statue of Unity

Narendra Modi first announced the project to commemorate Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on 7 October 2010 at a press conference to mark the beginning of his 10th year as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. At the time, the project was dubbed, "Gujarat's tribute to the nation". A special purpose vehicle named the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET) was constituted by the Government of Gujarat for executing the project. Narendra Modi, then serving as Chief Minister of Gujarat, laid the statue's foundation stone on 31 October 2013, the 138th anniversary of Patel's birth.

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Indian infrastructure company Larsen & Toubro won the contract on 27 October 2014 for its lowest bid of ?29.89 billion (US$420 million) for the design, construction and maintenance. The foundation stone of the statue was laid on October 31, 2013. It took 33 months, 25,000 tonnes of iron and 90,000 tonnes of cement for the entire statue to be built. The construction of the statue involved 250 engineers and 3,400 workers. The total cost of the statue was Rs. 2989 crore.

Statue of Unity, the world's highest statue is not only a tribute to the Iron Man of India, but also is the first such tourist attraction located in India and is termed 'Pride of Nation'. A sense of patriotism and united India is infused within the hearts of the people who visit the Statue of Unity or even have a glimpse of it. The statue is estimated to remain as it is for 1000 years. It implies that it will continue contributing to the national income of India through tourism for 10 entries. Since the Statue has been built on PPP model, the public money spent on it is less than the private money spent on it. L&T spent the major part of the money in constructing the statue. Around 10% of the amount spent is contributed by the Government.

BBC highlighted a report wherein they highlighted how "the basic needs" of our farmers were ignored and this extravagant ambition of our politicians has drained the tax-payers money. The staggering Rs. 3000 crores could have been spent more judiciously.I quote Mahatma Gandhi who insisted on applying a test, when our decision-making is in confusion.

"Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, recall the case of the poorest and weakest man who you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him control over his own life and destiny? Will it lead to SWARAJ that is self-government, for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then, you will find your doubts and self-melting away."

Social Activists have opposed the project on the ground that India is suffering from natural calamities like floods and cyclones in many parts of the country e.g. Kerala, Orissa. Accordingly instead of putting in the money in the construction of statue, the money could have gone to address these problems of common people. There are other pressing needs in India "like education, health, safety, employment. The money could have been utilized in these sectors. Local Tribals were dislocated as their land was acquired for the construction of the statue. The Tadvi tribe opposed land acquisition for the development of tourism infrastructure around the statue. However, they were offered cash and land compensation, and have been provided jobs before land acquisition.

I always believed establishing statues was a wasteful expenditure. These precious funds should have been used for poverty alleviation, employment generation, farmer"s upliftment, grassroot infrastructure, etc. All the Political parties and governments at the State and Centre should resolve unanimously to stop this wasteful expenditure in future.

- VVV Satyanarayana