As women are molested, abused and raped all over the country, every Asifa and every Nirbhaya condemns the Statue of Unity. As another T1 Avni is shot without tranquilisation, every animal roars in detest. As another case of medical negligence causes another patient to die, every human shrieks in protest. As another child falls prey to malnourishment, the nation hangs its head in shame.
In a nation plagued by poverty, disease, violence against women and children, religious intolerance, animal abuse, and so on and so forth, is it justified on the part of the Government to erect a statue in the name of promotion of unity? Do we as responsible denizens fail to comprehend the necessity of a healthy nation before a decorated nation? Do we not realise the importance of humans of flesh and blood that die without care each day? Is it really very difficult to place humanity over stones and metals?Before any judgement is placed on the statue, it is important to state its specifications. The 182m high colossal statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel cost INR 2989 crore to build. Needless to say, taxpayers’ money should have been put into uses that actually emancipate the nation’s image globally. India ranks 130 in the Human Development Index and 21.2% of the county’s population lives in poverty and it is quintessential that the State looks into matters of greater importance and gravity instead of a statue of a freedom fighter. Moreover, India used aid from Britain (£1.1billion) out of which the statue of Unity was erected. This eventually brings in disrespect from other countries that offer us aid and lead to a loss of face for India and its citizens. It would definitely not be very wrong to state at this point that the Statue of Unity has absolutely no function, it is nothing but a piece of ornamentation, the expense of which could have been easily avoided. It is heart-breaking to notice that even after the furore on various social media platforms, we see no response from the government’s side justifying the case of the Statue of Unity. There is no disclosure of usage of funds either, which invariably raises the bar of dissatisfaction from the countrymen. How can a Prime Minister who addresses his citizens as his ‘friends’ be so non-responsive to those very citizens?
While some argue that the creation of the statue created employments, the fact cannot be ignored that designer Ram V. Sutar was not unemployed before, neither were the engineers and architects involved. Are the daily wage labourers the epicentre of the argument? Is the government thereby promoting wage labour and job insecurity? Taxpayers are still paying to visit a statue that they paid to build. Another arguement arises related to promotion and propagation of tourism in the country, that shows no signs of skyrocketing since the inauguration of the Statue of Unity. From every direction, it is the common man who paid the highest price. Every person of authority has ignored the plethora of problems of infant mortality, child rape, religious lynching and riots and invested their priceless concentration on a statue that has incurred nothing but the wrath of people.The case, unfortunately, does not rest here; in fact, it just begins. With the Statue of Unity erected in Gujarat, other states refuse to fall far behind. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has cleared plans for a 221m high Ram statue at Ayodhya and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has allotted INR 4000 crore for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Smarak Smriti off the coast of Mumbai. Given these circumstances, it would hardly be a surprise to watch India die a slow death under the heavy weight of polished stone and metal.
- Shaoni Chakraborty